It wasn’t easy.

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About a month ago, I gave my students the assignment of embodying a character from a work of literature and giving voice to said character in their own words. Basically, they were to choose a character’s monologue, and where that character stopped, my students were to continue.

My prized pupils, who are always keeping me on my toes (and pins and needles, and the occasional over-the-counter medication), asked for an example of the assignment in order to better understand what it was I required of them. After mulling over their rather annoying astute request, I obliged, sharing with them the results of my hours-long homework the following week.

The character that I chose to embody was Papa from William P. Young’s novel, The Shack. “Papa” is the pet name that the book’s protagonist, Mackenzie “Mac” Phillips, and his family have for God. So, essentially, I chose to play God, which didn’t surprise my ego in the least. Add to that the fact that Young made his version of God female and black, well, it’s like 1 + 1 = duh.

Mac’s story is one of lasting trauma, devastating heartbreak, and ultimate redemption. But for the sake of not spoiling his and his family’s story for you and – more aptly – for my own convenience, I suggest you read the book to learn more. Or, you can skip the book, like I did, and conveniently go straight to the movie. The following dialogue is from a scene featuring Papa and Mac wherein I lifted the inspiration for my self-/student-assigned homework.

Papa: I’m not who you think I am.

Mac: He said it himself: ‘My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?’

Papa: No, Mac, you misunderstand the mystery.

[Papa places her hand in Mac’s hand, revealing to him a hole-shaped scar in her wrist]

Papa: Don’t ever think that what my son chose to do didn’t cost us both dearly. Love always leaves a mark. We were there together; I never left him, I never left you, I never left Missy.

Now, here’s me as Papa.

Every tear you cry, I cry. Every heartbreak you suffer, I suffer. I am not only all-knowing and all-powerful, I am also all-feeling. I feel everything you feel, to the same degree that you feel it. You were created in my image, therefore I am one with you. Not only will I never leave you, I cannot ever leave you. I will never forsake you because I cannot forsake myself. We are inseparable. We are one. We are in this thing, called ‘life,’ together.

You, however, may forget that you are one with me. There may be times in life when you feel you are all alone, when you feel that nobody understands what it is that you are going through. But it is in these times that you must remember that no matter how lonely you may feel, you are never alone. I am with you, always. I am your friend and your confidant when all of your friends have gone. I am your mama and your papa when you feel orphaned and without a home.

When the shadow of doubt creeps into your mind and heart, remember, I am here. When your back is against the wall and it looks like there’s no way out, remember, I am here. When you feel like you’re drowning in a sea of tears and fears, remember, I am here. I am your light in the darkness. I am your exit in the maze. I am your rescuer in troublesome times. I am that I am.

Wooh (!), that was heavy. However, I didn’t really feel the weight of these words until I rediscovered them yesterday as I was clearing my desk. Candidly, but not too candidly, this past week was an extremely rough one for me – teenaged students not included – and these words, my words, came right back to me right. on. time.

Nevertheless, as with all things, the events and emotions of the past week, too, shall pass. And with this personal reminder of my Papa’s assurance that He is always with me, especially in my roughest times, I know that I, too, shall pass and ace my God-/self-assigned work.


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