Marriage is one of the most beautiful and difficult relationships we enter into . . . something fiction author Jolina Petersheim has experienced personally and also explores in her new novel— How the Light Gets In, a story about marriage and motherhood, loss and moving on. While writing the novel, Jolina and her husband Randy faced several trials that tested their marriage deeply: moving across country with three young daughters after homesteading in Wisconsin; building (by hand) a new home; the looming prospect of Randy’s second brain surgery to remove a benign tumor. Jolina’s desire is that the story that unfolds in the pages of her latest novel will offer hope to marriages, especially those burdened by the stresses of life—parenthood, jobs, health, ministry obligations, and more. It’s a grace to welcome Jolina to the porch today…
fter our girls were in bed, I sat on the floor beside my husband, Randy, as he rested on the couch.
I asked if he’d seen the picture his mother had shared of Nick Vujuicic with his family. Nick is a world-traveling preacher and motivational speaker. He also has no arms and legs.
I said, “It’s all about attitude.”
Randy, deep in thought, barely responded.
I knew he was hurting; I knew he needed space. But I pushed him. “Have you written any letters?”
“To the girls. Or financial information for me and your dad.”
“I’ll have it all together when it’s time.”
His eyes closed.
I said, “Do you even know what you feel?”
His eyes opened. “Yes, at the moment I feel somber. Brain surgery is a sobering thing to face.”
Leaning over my knees, I drilled my fingers into my jaw. Tears stung. I said, “You want to know what I really think?”
I heard the smile in his reply: “Maybe.”
“Sometimes I wonder if we just made God up to make ourselves feel better.” I glanced at him; he didn’t look shocked.
“I know He’s real. I’ve seen how He’s worked in my life.”
My tears fell harder. After a moment, I said, “Is this how we can talk about it?”
“About the surgery.”
“Yes.” His tone softened. “This is much better than telling me to write letters.”
As Randy began sharing what he felt, I was reminded of a similar conversation four years ago: my husband lying in a hospital bed, hours away from an emergency craniotomy to remove a benign tumor, and me telling him to take videos for our girls.
I hadn’t felt kind then, in the hospital, and I hadn’t felt kind while asking him to write letters.
His somber behavior over the past few days had infuriated me. It also infuriated me when he decided to stop CrossFit until after surgery, which was still a month away.
I told myself it was because I wanted to have a strong “fighting stance,” but the reality was that I wanted to control what I could.
But my husband wouldn’t let me control him.
How could I have gone through so much and remained unchanged?
My tears turned to sobs. Flipping onto my stomach, I tried muffling them in the carpet so our girls wouldn’t awake.
When that didn’t work, I went out of our apartment into the cold warehouse, where my husband stores his business inventory along with items for our new house, which he’s building across the field.
Still sobbing, I moved deeper into the dim building and sat on the wooden crate containing our new house’s front door.
I sat there, back curled over my knees, and travailed like I was giving birth. It only lasted minutes, but during it, and afterward, I expected my husband to come out into the warehouse and hold me.
I wondered why he didn’t come, and then I had a flashback to the time, early in our dating, when I became ill and threw up in my parents’ bushes, and he darted inside to give me space.
Space is his love language.
My love language is hugs.
But there, sitting on that huge wooden crate, I felt God’s presence. It was so tangible that I smiled with tears on my face.
I had questioned Him and run from Him, and He still chased me down into a cold warehouse. His love washed over me as warm and tangible as a hug. His love is perfect.
I cannot expect my husband to love me the same way because he came into our marriage with his own hurts and scars, just as I came branded with mine.
Together, we create an imperfect union, and stress magnifies that imperfection.
But then, when I allow my heart to accept God’s whole, perfect love, my gaze shifts from those magnified imperfections, and I am able to love my husband through the grace of God’s perfect example.
Rising from that crate, I walked back into our apartment. My husband was there, waiting for me. “You okay?” he asked.
“Yeah.” I smiled. “I’m okay. Can I snuggle you a minute?”
He opened his arms, and I laid my head on his chest.
Breathing to his heartbeat, I realized that our marriage will never be perfect, but through the example of Jesus’ perfect love, we are finding that our imperfections are driving us closer to the only One who is without fault.
Jolina Petersheim and her husband, Randy, share a unique Amish and Mennonite heritage that originated in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. They also share a yearning for the simple life that led them to homestead on a solar-powered farm in Wisconsin for two years before moving with their three young daughters to be closer to family.
Jolina is the bestselling author of several novels, including her latest How the Light Gets In, a modern retelling of the biblical story of Ruth set on a cranberry bog in a Wisconsin Mennonite community. Francine Rivers describes the story as “can’t-put-down fiction” with a “heart-wrenching conflict that had me glued to the page” and Lisa Wingate agreed, calling it “compellingly woven . . . a story that will stay with you long after you close the final page and leave you pondering: Which path would I take?”
[ Our humble thanks to Tyndale for their partnership in today’s devotion ]