Only the Lover Sings: Meditations on the Woman at the Well (the Well Trilogy #1)

Reviewed by:

G. Connor Salter, Professional Writing alumnus from Taylor University, Upland, IN.


Only the Lover Sings: Meditations on the Woman at the Well (the Well Trilogy #1)


Matthew Clark (and other contributors)


Panim Press

Publication Date:

May 4, 2022




180 pages


The story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well has proven to be one of the more shocking stories in the Gospels. It’s one of the few stories of Jesus interacting with someone who’s not Jewish. It’s a story about Jesus breaking his culture’s norms about how women were treated. And the detail about the woman having many former husbands, and living with a man she’s not married to, has sparked many a discussion about whether that makes her a loose woman. Musician Matthew Clark has found the story to be a touchstone in his life because it claims something scandalous: that God would love enough to reach out to people even when all the information makes them appear a disappointment.

In this book, released alongside his album of the same name, Clark provides reflections on this story and elaborates on moments in his life where he’s connected with the story’s themes. Themes like forgiveness, or learning to be honest about our pain. In between his anecdotes are essays by various authors (many associated with the Anselm Society) with their own meditations.

Clark’s album is a collection of thoughtful beautiful songs somewhat in the style of Michael Card—acoustic music with lyrics reflecting centered around a Biblical story or person. Given that many of Card’s albums have a companion book exegeting the same Bible material, it would be easy to take that comparison even further. And yes, Clark does present beautiful ponderings on this Bible story’s themes.

However, Clark wisely avoids trying to compete with Card on his own territory (Card has, after all, been doing this kind of thing for thirty-odd years). Clark and his contributors stake out their own territory. Rather than exclusively doing a deep Bible study, they provide a little bit of Bible study, a little bit of memoir, a little bit of devotional. There are essays on whether it’s fair to call a many-times-married woman a harlot, in a culture where women couldn’t initiate divorce proceedings (something Tim Harlow explores in What Made Jesus Mad?). There are reflections on what church tradition claims later happened to the woman at the well. There are essays about the prodigal son (another person undesirable by their culture’s standards who experiences radical love). And there are various reflections where authors describe the times they felt God’s radical forgiveness and love.

Clark’s ruminations are particularly raw, as he discusses undergoing a divorce and realizing how much being a “good Christian” mattered to him. Like the best of Brennan Manning’s work, he is vulnerable yet inspiring as he describes that moment when status gets stripped away… and we realize God doesn’t love us any less.

Taking all these elements together, Only the Lover Sings is a diverse but great book. Whether consumed alongside the album or by itself, it provides wonderful reflections. It alternately comforts and challenges. It educates and leaves things to ponder. Each element provides something substantial well worth exploring.

An excellent book on brokenness, forgiveness, and what we do when we discover that God’s love remains when we feel unsalvageable.


Rating (1 to 5 stars):

Five stars

Suggested Audience:

Readers seeking reflections on the woman at the well story, well-written discussions about forgiveness, and explorations of Christianity’s claims about Jesus’ nature.

Christian Impact:

The authors present many well-written meditations on what it means that God would come in human flesh… and that furthermore, he would be so loving to the least of these.

Buy on

Note: Readers and listeners can learn about the next installments of the Well Trilogy here:


Only The Lover Sings: Meditations on the Woman at the Well (The Well Trilogy)

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