I write stories that express the concreteness of a deep wound. The writing is a way to grieve what Evil has done in a community of compassionate lamenters. It's also a place to speak honestly and vulnerably about the struggle for wholeness and a flourishing life in the kind of world we inhabit before God makes all things new (Rev. 21:5).

This openheartedness, as I call it, is the surprising path toward one's own delight as well as the direction toward a capacity to truly receive the delight of another. What you’ll find here is authentic and vulnerable writing about living openhearted with all the joy and sorrow that brings; it's about being touched by God's grace to be fully human in the here and now. 

I agree with Lewis Hyde (The Gift) that a gift, if it is to be fully perfected, must be shared in gratitude.This website and my writing in the blog is my gratitude for the kindness I’m receiving from my Father whose good pleasure it is to give me His kingdom (Luke 12:32). I hope it is an invitation for you to come to know the same.

What Others Are Saying

Preston Sprinkle

"With so much 'Christianese' rhetoric cluttering the airwaves, I'm eternally gratefully for my friend Joel Willitts, who isn't afraid to get real and talk about the nitty-gritty issues facing us today. If I was on my death-bed, I'd want Joel at my side, because I know that he genuinely and passionately cares."

Jeff Vanderstelt

"I am so thankful for Joel Willitts and the powerful and transforming work that God is bringing about first in his life and now through his life to many. I believe his story and the ongoing healing and transformation he is experiencing provides both an example for us to follow and hopeful and helpful steps for all those bent and broken by sin to take. I trust and anticipate that his desire to see us all live openhearted will greatly serve the healing of many."

Scot Mcknight

"Rare is the scholar, the theologian or even the pastor who is genuinely Openhearted. The apostle Paul's plea for the Corinthians to open their hearts to Paul's care has been answered by this wounded healer, Joel Willitts, my friend. This site is a space open to grace."


“And every shipwrecked soul knows what it is to live without intimacy - I thought I heard the captain's voice - But it's hard to listen while you preach”

~ “Every Breaking Wave,” U2


Unlike the conscience bound to the law, the freed conscience is not fearful. Instead, it is wide open to the neighbor and the neighbor’s concrete distress. The freed conscience aligns itself with the responsibility, which has been established by Christ, to bear guilt for the sake of the neighbor.

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
in his Ethics

About Joel



I am a 45-year-old male; 23 years a husband of a beautiful woman named Karla. I am a father of amazing 9-year-old boy-girl twins born through IVF after a five-year struggle with infertility, Zion and Mary. I am a scholar, a reluctant pastor, and a marathon enthusiast.

I am the byproduct of a broken home and a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

Over the last three years I have experienced an awakening, a grace awakening. My Chicago winter theology of “get-through-it” is being replaced by a “spring-summer” theology of kindness and rest. I’m sure not there yet; and perhaps I never will be until Jesus fully rebuilds the ruins of my body. But the grey cloud cover of my deep, embodied ambivalence is on more and more occasions giving way to the warm rays of sun. The healing rays of God’s Fatherly loving attention toward me is beginning to break through the Teflon sky of my self-contemptuously rugged way of being; my sturdy, familiar bodily way of staying alive.

I’m now determined to write things that lead me into a deeper humanity; into openheartedness. I don’t intend to create a dichotomy between the academic and the personally authentic. Actually I want to integrate these in my life; until recently they’ve been pieces of a fragmented life. And I want to spend my time taking hold of my humanity, not scholarly productivity. If scholarly productivity results, well that is fine. If it doesn’t that’s OK too. I want to write things that sync my mind with my body through engaging my imagination in creative expression. That’s what this website is about. And I'm glad you're here.

Academic Work