The Real Jesus: Part 1. The Unfixable Life.

real jesus pt 1 w text

Several years ago, I entered into the worst season of my life. It was as if the sun and the moon flickered out and left me groping in the dark. All of my normal and taken-for-granted reference points vanished.

I wept face to the floor on that inaugural day of The Unfixable Life. I wept out of pain. I wept out of loss. I wept out of anger. I wept over uncertainty. I wept over the sin of this fallen world. I wept over utter helplessness. I wept out of fear.

I remember weeping bitterly again about ten days later. And then my tears dried up for a very long time and I numbly went through the motions of picking up the shards of my shattered life.  I went into survival mode, as is our human instinct when we’re living new days in a barren land and nothing is familiar or comfortable anymore.

Care and counseling ensued. And for months on end, I felt like a bulimic as I emotionally vomited over and over again, thereby reliving the heartache that I never expected to be part of my story.

It’s not like I’d never walked through unthinkable {to me} circumstances. I definitely had. And as we’re prone to assume, one hard road certainly means we won’t have to walk another one, a worse one. But I was wrong. As broken people living in a broken world, our lives break too. Our bodies break. Our circumstances break. Our relationships break. Our “security” and expectations break. Sometimes they bruise. Sometimes they crack. And sometimes they just bust wide open.

The road to recovery has been anything but linear and steady. On the contrary, the road has been unpredictable and scary, filled with potholes, debris, and detours. Recovery can feel like one part progress, three parts relapse.

My long-term counselor said to expect a three to five year recovery process.

At the time, that was not exactly the truth I wanted to swallow. Three to five years seemed like a lifetime. He said people always overestimate the progress they can make short-term but underestimate the progress they can make long-term. When you’re in pain and utter chaos, you just want a fix-it pill, a speedy counseling session, a quick clean-up of the mess, a shot of magical perspective so you can get on with life, upside-down though it feels.

But as I type this, several years now into “recovery,” I get it. I’m not the same. I am both healed and still healing. And I can say with utter certainty, peace, and acceptance that my counselor was exactly right and I’m so glad he was.

Because this long and unexpected journey through The Unfixable Life took me to a destination I never expected. It took me to the foot of the cross where I encountered the Real Jesus, the Healer I’d never really known.

And though I thought the journey was only about one thing, it’s actually changed everything.

Jesus has a way of doing that, of seeping into all sorts of unexpected spaces and turning them upside down in the most needful ways.

Not the flannel-graph Jesus of Sunday School days. Not the doctrinal Jesus constructed and deconstructed by scholars and professional theologians. Not the untouchable and unrelatable Jesus that lived in my own finite understanding and incomplete Christian experience. Not the good example Jesus that I could never come close to imitating. Not the first-century Jesus whose life and culture seemed too removed from my own.

I found the real-to-me Jesus, the touchable Jesus.

The One with scars. The One who came to save me in both the eternal and everyday sense. The One who pursues me with an everlasting love. The One whose radical love compelled him to die for me. The One who journeys beside me every day and is with me in every situation. The One who points me to Truth and who is Truth. The One who grants understanding. The One who is Grace to me and in me and through me. The One who shines the light of his presence into my darkest days and ugliest thoughts. The One who loves me just as I am and not as I think I should be. The One who lovingly shows me my ignorance, error, and sin and simultaneously points me to the cross that paid for all of it so that I can live repentant, forgiven, free, and healed.

In the coming week, I want to tell you about Him, the Jesus who gradually and unmistakably unfolded himself into my story when I began praying a simple and desperate prayer three years ago in the darkest season of my life:

Jesus, make yourself real to me.

He has. And He is.


A few words as I begin. {Because I have a terrible habit of over-thinking and over-explaining.}

The tagline of my blog is Writing the Real. Usually that takes the form of true confessions about everything from motherhood and mess to everyday grace and practical hacks. I share openly about my faith here and there but hopefully not in a way that’s preachy or esoteric. I certainly try not to. I want the themes of hope and redemption that spring from my faith to be more of an undercurrent rather than a tsunami.

While many of my readers are people of faith, specifically Christian, I hope that all sorts of people feel like they are able to draw some everyday inspiration and encouragement from this space. It’s my sincere desire that they do.

Whoever you are and whatever you believe, I’m glad you’re here.

This week is the week that precedes Easter. Christians all over the world refer to it as “Holy Week.” I hadn’t planned to write specifically about faith or Jesus as we move into this week. Quite frankly, I’m more than a bit uncomfortable with the very idea of it.

But several weeks ago a strange thing happened. I was scrawling a few post ideas in my journal. As I scribbled some supporting notes under one of the headings, my pencil kept writing and writing…and writing. Nine pages, cramping fingers, and many tears and Kleenex later, I finally stopped.

Don’t misunderstand. This wasn’t “magic,” like something out of Harry Potter. It wasn’t involuntary. It was simply an unexpected and uninterrupted flood of words in a way I’ve never experienced. I closed the journal and never even read what I’d written until many days later.

I didn’t know what it was or what it wasn’t, where it would go or not go, who it was for or not for. And I didn’t have to. It was a gift to me and I am deeply grateful. All I know is that a deluge of words about Jesus showed up that day in graphite and on paper, scrawling out my journey to Him and alongside Him these last three years. After much doubting and running the other way, I decided to translate that stream-of-consciousness scrawl into three posts and to offer them up this week, Holy Week.

It’s a story about how The Real Jesus met me and continues to meet me in my Unfixable Life, a story about gaping wounds stitched up, a story about the redemptive beauty of hard stories and the scars they leave, a story about what He’s done for me and what He’s still doing. It’s a story about the cross and about new life. It’s not a story with specific details about my personal hard road; it’s simply a story of how He’s journeyed beside me as I’ve walked it.

But more than anything, it’s a story about the Realness of Jesus and about the invitation extended to all of us to know Him for ourselves.

I hope you’ll join me this week for a series of posts as I share my story, a story that would be terribly incomplete if I didn’t mention Jesus. You should know that I’m way out of my comfort zone talking so much about Jesus. I’m far more relaxed writing about grocery hacks and unfinished laundry. Thank you for prayer and for grace.

The Real Jesus: Part 2. When Wounds Take You So Low, You Can Only Look Up

The Real Jesus: Part 3. Why We Keep Our Scars


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  1. Renee says

    Tearful over here. “Jesus has a way of doing that, of seeping into all sorts of unexpected spaces and turning them upside down in the most needful ways…” The summer of 2011-2012 was the hardest of my adult life thus far and in the midst of broken bits and life turned upside down was Jesus. The Real Jesus, as you write about. A huge revelation for me was that it is ok to be broken, (I’m a slow learner with this gospel thing!) God tends to work the most and reveal His glory there. Thank you for this space, your words, your courage to share, and ultimately to point to the Gospel and Jesus Christ. Your blog and the idea of the unfixable life was one that provoked thoughts for weeks on end as the Gospel started freeing parts of my heart. Praying for courage and the gift of words for you this week! I’m eager to read more and blessed by your proclamation of the good news that is ours in the midst of today’s struggles.

    • Marian says

      Renee, I greatly appreciate {and need} that encouragement this week. I’m so glad to have you in this space. It’s not quite the same as my living room all those years ago but I’ll take it. : ) I hope you’ll continue to find hope and the gospel of grace here.

  2. Kim says

    Marian, I have not commented before, but you are one of my favorite writers. Thank you for your honest and beautiful words. I am only 4 months into my difficult personal journey, so I am eager to read how Jesus walked alongside you in yours. I will be keeping you in my prayers. Kim

    • Marian says

      Kim, thank you for your comment. I’m so glad you’re here and I’m sorry for the hard road you’re walking right now. My prayer for this series is simply to hold out hope. It’s there. I promise.

  3. says

    It may be my favorite thing in the world to hear stories of where Jesus was real, where someone found Him in their dark places, or where He became something more than the Jesus you described that we learn about or see or think we know. They are my favorite stories to tell also. I’m looking forward to reading more and praying for courage for you as you share your heart and stories of our Savior in such intimate and real places. May He be glorified.

  4. says

    So excited about this series. I’m still learning to accept my own unfixable life as the very place to meet God in the deepest ways. It is so helpful to know others are on the journey, too.

    • Marian says

      You are so not alone on your journey. And yes, your deepest needs have a way of deepening your relationship with God. Hang in there.

  5. says

    “Recovery can feel like one part progress, three parts relapse.” ~ I so get this statement. Only a year into “recovery” from an 18-month unemployment, my husband and I feel, on some days, that this part is much harder than the actual unemployment. GOD has certainly been our steady in all the unsteady and our solid rock on this ever-shifting sand of bills we find ourselves working through. We are choosing to keep our eyes fixed on JESUS and know HE will bring us through to the other side.

    As has been true for us through our journey, God will use your story to encourage others as they walk through theirs. May you walk in the courage HE provides and share with boldness what HE has done and is doing in your life.


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