Krista Gaulden: Hope Deferred, Desire Fulfilled
Meet Krista Gaulden.
She is a 28 year old wife to Ben. The miracle held inside of that sentence astounds me to this day.
Make yourself comfortable. This is a story worth hearing.
Ben and I grew up together in church youth group doing all the things youth group kids do. At times over the years, I would hear through the grape vine that he had a thing for me. I thought he was a great guy, but I hadn’t really noticed him in that way. A few times I did take notice of him, but he had backed off. This sort of puppy love was woven through our middle school and high school years.
Then I graduated from high school in 2005. That summer, my two closest friends were in Nicaragua, leaving me with a lot of free time on my hands. Ben and I, along with a few other friends, started spending time together. There were Sonic dates… parks… movies… the 4th of July… It was still early, but I knew there was something real between us.
July of that summer marked the beginning of our “official” relationship. And about a month later, Ben became my first kiss.
In the months that followed I really fell for him. I remember him coming often to pick me up from work… and all the fun we had just being together. For several months, we were soaking up the joys of our new romance.
Then, less than a year into our relationship, Ben and I started picking up on problems between his parents [who were the pastors at our church]. I had a dream around this time that they were going to leave the church but didn’t know exactly what it meant. A few months after our first inklings, Ben and I discovered together just how grave things were. We could see his parents’ marriage coming to an end, and I was in disbelief at what was unfolding. We didn’t tell anyone.
I was amazed at how strong Ben was during this time. He seemed to take on the responsibility to be strong for the family.
After what felt like a very long time to us, everything came to a head. In June of 2006, his parents’ impending divorce was announced at church, they stepped down from their positions, and the family’s house went up for sale.
Even on the heels of things becoming public, Ben seemed to be doing amazingly well. It was very hard, though, for us to still participate in the church mission trip to Latvia that August. But we went.
The house sold quickly, and his parents each went in their own directions. Ben moved into an apartment with a friend and started working at a local restaurant. It was then that he started experiencing the magnitude of what was happening to his family. Moving out of that house and being pushed into an uninvited and cruel new season started bringing his pain to the surface.
I wasn’t aware of exactly what was happening with Ben, but I started noticing things and knew something was up. There were strange phone calls when we were together – phone calls he tried to explain by lying when I asked him about them. And there were bags and bags of trash every time I went to his apartment. Why is he letting the trash pile up? And where is all this trash coming from anyway? His apartment was filthy too. Then he started showing up to our dates looking like he just rolled out of bed.
I didn’t know what to do with all of this. I would get so angry with him – he wasn’t offering any explanation for his erratic behavior. It wouldn’t be until much later that I discovered he had started drinking heavily and doing drugs during this time. All I knew at the time was that the Ben I fell for was slipping away. Tension was building, and we started fighting. I was young and naïve… and loved Ben. I couldn’t see where all these signs were pointing. And I wasn’t going to abandon him because he already felt so alone.
This roller coaster continued for the next few years.
During this time, our church worship leader, Cameron, stepped into Ben’s life. He was pouring into him and allowing Ben space to admit things he wasn’t admitting to me. Cameron was intervening and bringing hope, assuring Ben that he needed to continue being part of the worship team and that he was going to get through this.
Going to Ski Invasion [our annual church retreat] each year was always encouraging too. We would hear powerful redemption stories that would stir up my hope for Ben. I prayed countless times for God to get a hold of him and heal him. I remember daydreaming about him becoming the man of God I knew he was supposed to be. I would dream about him being okay again.
Through these years of ups and downs, breakthroughs and setbacks, Ben continued to be on the worship team. After a rough two or three years, I felt things getting worse with him. I would get to church some Sunday mornings, expecting to see him preparing to lead, and he would be missing. Livid, I would call him asking where he was… And when he showed up, he smelled like alcohol. I was fuming each time this happened. And still, in my naivete, I had no idea how deeply he was struggling – let alone that he was out partying all night.
By early 2009, nearly four years into our relationship, things were spiraling out of control. Ben’s behavior was more and more erratic. And though I still loved him, I was very unhappy and knew that things were not as they should be. I was clearly hearing the Lord say Let him go. But my heart was shouting and protesting back, not wanting those four years and all I had invested in Ben to be a waste. And wishing so badly that he would snap out of his darkness. After all we had been through, I couldn’t imagine letting him go.
Ben started working at another restaurant around this time. And I noticed a girl, Sarah [name changed], who worked with him there, and it was evident to me that she was on the same destructive path as Ben. In one of our rawest, most painful confrontations, I ended up telling him that maybe he should date her. When he answered by telling me, in so many words, that he agreed, I knew things were dying between us. I never knew my heart could be so wrung with pain.
I sat in disbelief at the words we were saying to each other, at the direction Ben’s heart was heading, and at the realization that I really did have to let him go.
For several more weeks, I kept holding on. Ben was distancing himself further and further from me, but I kept kicking and screaming. Everything in me wanted his heart to turn back toward me, back toward the Lord. But he had a deep resolve about this path he was headed down. We were both still virgins at this point, and I knew what was going to happen when he ended up with Sarah. The thought of it was excruciating. I felt like my heart could explode from the pain.
At one point during these last few agonizing days, I came over to his apartment on a mission. I knew what I had to do.
He was high when I got there… and wanted to know why I had come. “I want to wash your feet.” “Noooo,” he said. He kept protesting, telling me his feet were dirty from landscaping… he was high… he didn’t want me to. “Look at me,” I said, as he kept trying to look away. “I’m going to wash your feet.”
I poured the water, knelt down toward his dirty feet, looked into his glazed eyes and told him I forgave him and released him. And I asked him to forgive me too… and told him I loved him.
Very soon after this, around April of 2009, I let him go for good.
Letting Ben go was very much like a death. It was a death, really. The deepest parts of my heart were burst open with sadness. I grieved over what we had in the beginning…and for what I had thought we were going to have in the future. I grieved over the man of God I knew Ben to be. And I grieved over all I knew he was going to lose as he headed down that path.
My days were very long. Time crept by. I repeatedly made a conscious decision to take life one day at a time.
Ben quickly became serious with Sarah, and before I knew it, I heard they were living together.
At work, I would daydream about Ben coming to his senses, opening his eyes, and wanting to be with me again. I dreamed of us being restored. But every time I heard the latest on him and Sarah, those dreams seemed more and more foolish.
I eventually saw that God was working in me through these hard, lonely days. He was cleansing my heart in a lot of ways and was establishing in me who I was as an individual. Some days were beautiful as I saw growth in myself. Of course, there were very bad days too. Days when it felt like Ben had moved on and was having the time of his life while I was left on my own to pick up the pieces. Over time, I learned to let myself fully feel the pain and to invite God into it…not to rush away this hard season, but to embrace it and get everything God wanted me to get from it.
It took me a year and half to start feeling normal again. Slowly, the pain was subsiding and hope was seeping back in.
Around this time, I heard from a friend that Ben and Sarah were getting married. Even in the much stronger place my heart was in now, the news was hard to swallow. I ended up having a fun getaway with friends on the day of their wedding. I was so thankful to not be in town that day. They married in September of 2010.
Just weeks after making it past the hurdle of their wedding, I found out Sarah was pregnant. Another very tough pill to swallow. I couldn’t help but wonder why Sarah was getting to do with Ben all the things I had dreamed of doing with him. Not only did she get to marry him, but now she was going to have a child with him.
Meanwhile, stories about Ben were making their way to me. I kept hearing things about him that saddened my heart – the drinking, the darkness. Even after so many years, I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that the sweet Ben from our middle school days was living the life he now was. I still felt a strong connection to him and from time to time would still feel the Holy Spirit’s nudge to pray over his life.
Finding out that a child was on the way was the final nail in the coffin for me. I knew then there would be no turning back. So during the pregnancy, I intentionally started praying for Ben and Sarah. By God’s grace, I prayed blessing over their marriage and even asked God to use this baby to awaken Ben. Eva was born in June of 2011.
And from what I was hearing from friends, it seemed like God was answering my prayers for Ben. He had gotten help with his drinking and was really seeking to better himself so that he could be a good father to Eva. My heart was glad to hear this.
Then the unthinkable happened.
Eva died on August 25, 2011. She wasn’t even three months old.
I found out from one of our dear mutual friends and sat in shock. Devastated, Ben was still resolute in wanting to live a better life. I decided not to go to the funeral, but I heard he spoke beautifully at her service of how Eva had turned his heart back to the Lord.
Very soon after Eva’s death, Sarah plunged into darkness. She wasn’t coming home lots of nights, and Ben was going out to find her in bars. She would fight him, refusing to go home with him. He kept fighting for their relationship, and she kept plunging deeper and deeper into darkness. He came home one day and all of her stuff was gone.
I had a surge of hope when I heard they were getting divorced. Not hope for getting back with him, but hope for Ben’s life in general. Their relationship had been so destructive. I knew his being free from it was a very good thing.
But Sarah’s leaving threw Ben back into his familiar darkness. Heavy drinking. Heroine. Nearly dying from overdose. Women. All of it.
I caught wind of the terrible place he was in, and my heart was sick. These stories kept making their way to me for more than a year.
At some point, a few of our mutual friends started hinting that Ben had thoughts of pursuing me again. He’s lost his mind! I thought to myself. I would get sporadic text messages or friend requests from him and dismissed them. I am not going to get trapped again trying to be his savior. He wrote me a letter during this time apologizing for everything he had done and explaining some of what had been going on inside him that caused him to check out and pursue Sarah years earlier.
Tears streamed as I read his letter. He was definitely still in a dark place, but I could see something starting to change in him.
He would contact me from time to time after that, asking me to come hear his gigs. Lots of times I would turn him down, but a few times I went. In my mind, it was a way for me to be his friend but keep distance. I still cared for him as a person and wanted the best for him but had no desire for a relationship.
In November of 2013, one of my childhood friends was getting married. Our old friends, Nathan and Kristin, were in town for the wedding. Ben reached out, wanting to hang out with all of us. I said ‘no’, still assuming the worst about him. Our friends couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t allow Ben to meet up with us. Nathan ended up challenging me head-on about Ben later that weekend: “Krista, you need to stop.” He spoke with authority. “You need to change your attitude about Ben. You have no idea the changes he’s making. He is getting his life together.” It jarred me.
Is he??? I thought to myself. Is something really changing in him?? It occurred to me that I never saw him drink at the wedding.
A thought ran through my mind that had been dead for years: What if Ben actually changed? What if, after everything, he ends up becoming the man I saw in him in the very beginning? This possibility had been dead for so long that the thought felt entirely new. And it still sounded absurd. I knew it would have to be God. And I was carefully guarding myself.
Then to my surprise, I learned that Ben had taken initiative months earlier to face his alcohol problem. Besides going to detox and rehab, he had also invited accountability into his life. Ben wouldn’t have even considered accountability before. I knew something real was happening with him. He was back in church too. And I noticed that he was spending time again with friends he had walked away from in recent years. He looked better too.
So as he kept reaching out to me, I started taking him up on his invitations to coffee. I was intrigued by the changes I was seeing in him and wanted to hear about them. After so many years, he was finally ready to talk. We would talk and talk and talk… for hours. He answered my questions from way back when. Everything that had been a mystery for years was suddenly an open book.
It’s hard to describe the healing those hours of talking brought. The brick wall I kept hitting years ago that kept me from his heart was now gone. I could finally get to those parts he had shut off from me in his pain. Those conversations were treasure chests where I found jewel after jewel.
You see, I knew Ben before. I saw the man of God in him from the beginning. Then I had grieved what felt like the death of that man. I had watched that man get buried under darkness. And now here I was, seeing what I thought might be gone forever: the man of God that was there in the beginning.
Ben is back I said in my heart.
On Christmas Eve 2013, Ben gave me a gift. It was a song he said he wanted to write me years ago but never did. It was beautiful. That night, we kissed again for the first time.
As we spent more and more time together over the next several months, it felt like we were regaining time that had been lost. There was such excitement. Still, I was very aware of the risk I was taking. There were certainly moments of fear. Not every person in my life was excited for us. But the love in my heart for Ben and the evidence of supernatural change kept echoing.
On May 10, 2014, Ben asked me to be his wife.
And on July 26, 2014, we married.
That day, more than five years after letting him go for good, he became mine forever. Against all odds.
It’s been more than a year since that day, and I still sit in near disbelief at the life I am living. It’s the life I dreamed of for years but thought was lost forever. After letting Ben go, after watching him marry another woman, after watching him become the father of her child… and feeling for years the reality of our relationship’s death… Here I now stand, his wife.
Since our wedding, I’ve watched Ben grow more and more into the man of God, husband, and leader that I used to daydream about him becoming. He is once again leading worship and is even interning full time at church.
And not only am I Ben’s wife, but I now have the unspeakable gift of carrying his child.
The road that led us here was long and hard. There were rivers of tears, gut-wrenching pain, and very long days of waiting. But the long journey to this point has made the fulfillment of my dreams that much sweeter.
Simply getting to be Ben’s wife is a treasure I discover daily. And one that I don’t take for granted. And to think that we are now becoming parents together is almost too much for my heart to comprehend. I am tremendously honored to be by his side and share with him what God is doing in his life.
We are living a literal dream come true.
“She brings her husband good, not harm,
all the days of her life.”
The Kingdom story hidden inside of Krista’s:
Krista and Ben’s story is bursting at the seams with the promise of redemption. It speaks of a God whose heart to restore knows no bounds. No matter how final or destroyed something [or someone] seems, God always, always gets the last word.
He is well able – and takes great delight in – doing the unimaginable. Restoring against all odds. Defying statistics. Overthrowing the enemy’s schemes. Giving back what was stolen (Joel 2:25).
But in order to make room for Him to move, we have to let go. If Krista remained unwilling to let go, she would have blocked the Father’s access to Ben. When we keep attempting to save someone, we leave no room for Jesus to step in.
And yes, it can be terrifying to let go. Fear will come and tell us that our letting go will bring utter disaster. Don’t listen to this lie. His love for the person we’re letting go of is incomparably greater than ours. He’s a good Father. And He knows exactly how to get to each of our hearts. We can trust Him with the situations and people He tells us to relinquish.
Not only must we let go, but we have to forgive as well. Tears come easily every time I think of Krista washing Ben’s feet. What a picture of forgiveness. God led her to do this when Ben wasn’t even in a state to appreciate the beauty of it. Sounds a lot like what Jesus did for us, huh? Forgiveness says You owe me nothing. What Jesus did on the Cross is more than enough to pay for what you’ve done to me.
Let go. Forgive. Be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).
And watch the Artist work.
It may take time – may take a long time. But Beloved, He is at work. When we make room for Him to be God, rest assured: He is moving. Things are happening in the unseen realm even when it doesn’t appear to be so in the natural. What Krista didn’t know during her waiting is that Ben was having dreams about her in the midst of his darkness. In His kind, gentle way, the Father was reminding him of the Life that was still accessible.
He is at work. He does hear our prayers. He is trustworthy.
Not every story ends the same way. I have yet to hear one quite like Krista’s. But what we can be sure of, Beloved, is that submitting our lives to God is moving us toward His desired end. He is moving us toward wholeness and redemption. And whatever it ultimately looks like, it will be good.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”
Thank you, Krista, for letting go –
and for allowing the Lord to demonstrate
His endless capacity for redemption through your life.
The song below captures the limitless nature of God’s power – and His extravagant heart to redeem. It’s a fitting soundtrack for Krista and Ben’s story.