The longest one to one conversation Jesus has in scripture is with the Samaritan woman. The conversation shows us just how frightening it would have been to talk with the Messiah. The woman tried some verbal sparring but Jesus swept that aside, breaking the social and religious conventions of the day; and he had inside knowledge of this lady’s private domestic arrangements. She didn’t stand a chance with Jesus as he lovingly engaged with her.
We are just like this woman, because we try to get through each day unscathed. We do it in life, and we do it in our writing. We learn how to operate within the culture, and we have our treasures; the equivalent of that well which Jacob left for his Samaritan descendants. The woman recognised that the man she was talking to was a prophet and told him so. We too have tactics to evaluate and categorise the people around us, and by such strategies we try to avoid exposing the most vulnerable areas of our lives, the truth of who we are.
But Jesus’ love has a habit of stripping everything away and confronting us with raw honesty. We try to fill our lives with other things, but Jesus brings us back, in life and art, to the uncompromising standard of love. The physicist Richard Feynman summed this up well when he said:
“Stop trying to fill your head with science, for to fill your heart with love is enough.”
This from a man who won a Nobel prize in Physics! If ever there was someone qualified to put science in its place it is Feynman.
When all else is stripped away we are confronted with the question: Will we treat everyone, including ourselves, with love? Dare we give and receive love? How would I adapt Feynman’s quote to challenge myself? Maybe it’s:
“Stop filling your church with programmes, for to fill your heart with love is enough.”
“Stop filling your writing with whatever sounds right, for to fill your heart with love is enough.”
There is nothing wrong with church programmes, or even writing whatever sounds right, but honest love will burn through it all, and only that which is really valuable will remain. Jesus presents the challenge of love in our writing and our life, and when he does there will be nowhere to hide.
Andrew Chamberlain is a writer and creative writing tutor. He is the presenter of The Creative Writer’s Toolbelt, a podcast that offers practical, accessible advice on the craft. Andrew has published fiction and collaborated on a number of ghost-writing projects through Authentic Media, including the bestselling, 'Once an Addict' with Barry Woodward. He has also self-published a number of science fiction short stories.