Holding Hearts – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke Ditewig
Br. Luke Ditewig

“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.”[i]In dying, we live. Anything would be more palatable. Nothing is so essential. We must surrender, losing and letting go, being vulnerable again and again, dying to ourselves in order to live. This Holy Week we face Jesus on the cross.

When serving as a hospital chaplain, I found it exhausting continually listening to heartache. One day I realized Jesus was listening to the same heartache yet not for a few minutes per person and not just how many people I met. Jesus knows everyone and listens to all hearts, to everyone sick and dying, to all who are grieving, to each in any kind of suffering, and indeed to us all. Jesus draws the whole world to himself with a loving ear in a listening embrace.                                                                                                                                                     

All of us need and glory in the cross. Jesus invites each to die to self-sufficiency and secrecy. Jesus invites us to pray the whole truth of our lives, naming what weighs us down, our grief and questions, our wounds and concerns, as well as joys, thanks, and desires. Jesus listens directly and in the flesh through other people. Jesus, exposed and vulnerable on the cross, invites us to expose ourselves, share our inner life and struggles, pray in the dark, and pray our hearts. 

Telling our stories can be painful, like touching wounds, a kind of death. Like wheat dying to bear fruit, safe exposure of our story heals. We like to edit, restrict, categorize, or deny our lives. Good listeners help by attending to our stories with their surprises, seeming contradictions, and scattered pieces. Listeners help us hear how these pieces together form us. 

Letting ourselves be seen and letting our stories be witnessed by another person actually changes our internal chemistry. We were created for this. Being listened to literally helps our bodies heal. Love listens. 

Look at Love on the cross. Everything hangs here. Everyone is held. On the cross, Jesus hears all. Jesus listens to people lost and lonely, grappling and grieving, troubled and terrorized, wounded and dying. Jesus listens to you, to me, to everyone. On the cross, Jesus bears the weight of the world. 

Look at Love on the cross. What is heavy on your heart? What pain or trouble do you bear? What secret is eating away at you or what story needs telling? Nothing is too awful, or messy, or trivial, or weighty. Nothing. 

As we walk in Holy Week facing the cross, here are a few suggestions for prayer.

First, look at Love. Pray with a crucifix or an image of the cross. Gaze at Jesus, his agony, his wounds, his love. Listen for what he says to you. Surrender by speaking your pain to the one who bore and bears all pain. Pray to the crucified Christ. Listen for his response.

Second, pray as Jesus did. On the cross, Jesus cried: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This bitter grief is the first line of Psalm 22. Like other psalms of lament, it goes back and forth from trouble to trust. Jesus surely also knew the next lines of Psalm 22: “[Why] are you so far from my cry and from the words of my distress? … I cry in the daytime but you do not answer, by night as well, but I find no rest. Yet you are the Holy One, enthroned upon the praises of Israel. Our forebears put their trust in you; they trusted, and you delivered them.”[ii]

Pray Psalm 22 or use it as a model. Be specific about your pain and your present situation. Cry. Question. Grieve. Then pause to remember the past. What’s your experience of God?  When have you received love? Cling to memories as hope even amid today’s desolation. Pray the tension of present pain and trust God’s future informed by past provision.

Third, pray to Jesus with skin. Find a safe, trustworthy person and share what’s on your heart. Take a risk by telling your story honestly. Speak up to share. Let another witness your inner life. Let another grain die to bear fruit. Surrender by praying your life, sharing your story honestly. Let Jesus listen to you in the flesh with a safe person.

Love listens. God created us each to listen. While we can build skills, all can help heal with listening. One need not necessarily be or go to a professional. Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Love by listening.                       

This Holy Week, linger at the cross looking at Love, praying to Jesus, who is listening to all, tenderly holding hearts.

[i]John 12:24

[ii]Psalm 22:2-4

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  1. Fred adams on September 12, 2021 at 16:22

    Br. Luke. :You hit me right between the eyes–I fought the Stevens Ministry. I can now stop fighting.Thanks.

    • Rick Porter on September 13, 2021 at 07:58

      May God be with you.

  2. Rick Porter on September 11, 2021 at 08:34

    And to think that some say women should not preach. As I absorbed Brother Luke’s wonderful sermon, I could not wait to read the comments for they are so often filled with more wisdom and understanding. Thank God for these faithful women who share their hearts and their faith.

    My heart is filled with gratitude and concern. At 78 my wife and I have faced serious health concerns and come through them fine. But we have friends who have not been that fortunate. This is a time of life when we lose friends to Christ. This coming Friday we will attend another funeral and grieve with the surviving spouse. At the same time we are filled with love and gratitude that our friend has joined Jesus. We must die to live.

    Bless you Brother Luke, Rick Porter

  3. Leah Nakamura, AOJN on September 11, 2021 at 07:35

    Dear Friends, I am a survivor of childhood sexual trauma. And I listen to an untold number of these suffering men women and young people of their wounds. I only listen as a lay monastic with skin on. I have always used that same termJesus with skin and it’s most effective at the place where I am serving but also with those who are of other religions. Thank you for your beautiful words.

  4. Rhode on April 7, 2020 at 12:24

    I love “pray to Jesus with Skin”. This virus laden lenten journey has driven me and several close friends deeper in prayer and the Word. I find we are better at listening to each other trying to help absorb the stress of these strange days. One friend called needing prayer right then, right there on the phone. She was frantic with worry about getting her mother into a facility for people with Alzheimers in this time of Covid and we, her Christ sisters in good times were now her Jesus with Skin.
    Even though we are not in church together WE are the Church together through Jesus Christ and through “Jesus Christ with Skin”….I .love. that. Thank you so much.

  5. Missy Carter on April 7, 2020 at 11:39

    Br. Luke, a year after you wrote this, you speak so profoundly with meaning of what we are all living in and through. In my long life, I know I never thought or felt that Holy Week was so immediate in the present. Your words give me so much to think and pray about.

    Thank you so much.

    A prayer I pray “Remove the veils so I can see my intoxicating stories and fears and see what is really going on.”

  6. Elizabeth Clifford on April 7, 2020 at 10:08

    Serendipitously, I have just read a reflection by Thomas Howard on the Crucifix. As a former Roman Catholic, I am deeply accustomed to viewing the cross cum corpus, unlike some of my friends from other Christian traditions. How important it is to experience Jesus wounded, bleeding, in agony, before we rejoice in his Resurrection – and ours. How necessary it is to see all of wounded, suffering humanity on that sacred body upon the tree of life eternal and to respond with that of his compassion we are enabled to share. Blessed be the one, true, holy and ever-living God in his beloved Son!

  7. Melissa Sutherland on April 7, 2020 at 09:44

    Thank you for this. I am grateful when something is posted from Br. Luke D. or Br. Jim W. I hear their words, perhaps because I remember both of them from my retreat in Cambridge. This is a hard time for most. My life has not changed that much, retired introvert that I am, though my dreams are chaotic and anxious. This too shall pass and we will be a different world, possibly a better one, God willing. Blessings to all of you at SSJE. May you be safe and well.

  8. Patricia Betts on April 7, 2020 at 08:12

    Just what I needed today I am older in self lockdown – in Australia – where I live is for sale
    and the agent is wanting to bring 2 groups of people in the next few days Goes against all the lock
    down rules Please pray I get a new place to live preferably with a Christian community.

    I have difficulty managing the stairs where I am so know I have to move but where????

    Thank you. Every Blessing for Easter. I read and reflect on The Word each day. Patricia

  9. Carole Fielding on April 6, 2020 at 21:24

    A great reminder of Jesus and his love for us through his sacrifice on the cross! Praying with this image brings focus to what is truly important— love, love for all of God’s creation! How blessed are we to have received such love and forgiveness!

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