I was listening to Tim Keller teach recently. What he said struck a chord with me and I think it has application to this wonderful world of fiction. He spoke from John 11, the passage telling of the death of Lazarus. We all know the true story and hear it most commonly on Easter.
What I find so interesting about the passage is the different ways Jesus responded to the identical question. When Jesus shows up, Martha launches her misery: "If you would have been here, my brother wouldn't have died." In a way, Martha represents all of us (or all of our characters). We just need to fill in the blank with our own bleak circumstances. "If you would have been here (because in our weakness, we think as if he's been absent in our time of pain), ______ wouldn't have happened! Jesus responds to that great truth proclamation: "I am the resurrection and the life!"
A few verses later, we see Jesus facing Mary, who raises the identical question: "If you would have been here, my brother wouldn't have died." But this time, other than to ask a simple question about the location of the body, Jesus is silent. He cries. Tears, rather than truth became his response.
Truth and tears together are necessary and they are perfectly married in the ministry of Jesus. Both are needed. Sometimes one response, sometimes the other. Discernment is needed to understand whether the person in front of us is a Martha or a Mary. Is it time for a proclamation of truth or simply to be quiet and weep? Is it time for truth or tears.
Great fiction combines both. Fiction may be "made up" and thus not true, but we all know that fiction reveals truth in a way that non-fiction never can. And it's wrapped in a story involving conflict and tears that touches the heart of our readers.
In John 11: 5 we see it clearly stated that Jesus loved Martha and her sister. Outside a small circle of John and Peter, we do not see this kind of intimacy expressed in Jesus's relationships. I love this. His love is expressed in truth and tears.
So is our fiction!
So let's get out there and love our readers with both.