The first I count as essential reading. It was recommended to me by two women whom I deeply respect, who shared with the male half of my university's chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship about the way women think and act, and what we can do as men to best love, honor, and appreciate our sisters.
Several of the insights have been invaluable as my girlfriend and I grow in our understanding of one another and our relationship. We use the waffle and spaghetti analogy constantly. I strive to listen not only to the content of the things she talks about, but also (and sometimes primarily) to the emotion behind the words. We've recognized that we process information differently - she aloud and me with a pen. I'm so thankful that she is gracious enough to let me process in a way that is best for me. At the same time, I know that her desire is to know and be known, and I want to be able to be more open in expressing my emotions.
This is tricky for me, and an area of growth. We were just talking last night about my general lack of introspection. I'm not very self-reflective. I often can't express my emotion because I don't know what it is. I don't think about what I feel. Lack of introspection in my life isn't just about feelings, though. It goes deeper. I rarely evaluate myself on anything. This is something that God has been making clearer and clearer to me over the past 9 to 12 months. I think I'm finally being pushed to do something about it.
I will resist writing a real review of The Shack. I got swept up in it, as a story. I enjoyed the emotional ride. The things that God had to say, the way He lived at Papa, Sarayu, and Jesus resonated with me. But I am afraid that this portrayal of God is a very culturally driven one. This is exactly the God that our culture wants, particularly a Christian youth culture tired of the church and in love with the Bride, but also increasingly accepting of other forms of spirituality as equally valid. In essence, the God portrayed here is exactly the God that a postmodern wants.
We cannot understand the simplicity of God, that he is all one, that his characteristics are a unity, so he gives us names for them to help us. And this book seemed to be all about the love of our God, and not at all about the truth.