A Love Note To My Wife
This side of heaven, my wife is as close to perfect as can be. HEAR ME: she is not perfect…but she is perfectly flawed for me. Kaitlyn doesn’t value the type of independence conveyed in the song lyrics of artists like Ariana Grande, Beyonce or Destiny’s Child. Though she works hard for what she has - buying her own shoes, getting her nails and hair done, her strength is not found in hard work or her occupation but in the Lord’s occupation of her heart. Co-heirly dependent, I’ve seen her accomplish more than most woman dare to.
Initially meeting through random happenchance at a bar, we subsequently grew fond of each other over time. After three years of dating, I popped the question on Christmas day of 2013 - It was the second best decision of my life. With enough proverbial baggage to fill Grand Central Station, we married October 18th, 2014. The next summer, we started following Jesus - best decision of our lives - and spent the honeymoon stage of our marriage serving in a local church body. Once a recreational user of drugs, I stopped.
Growing in Christ, we grew together.
At the time, Kaitlyn was running the now defunct, www.kaitlynstephens.com as an empowerment coach; writing a book entitled “Think Like Jesus: A Five Week Devotional For Lady Bosses,” creating awesome free resources like Purpose In The Positive: A Journal For The Passionate, writing for the Huffington Post, being featured in amazing ministry publications like Propel Women, getting interviewed in podcasts and being featured as an online influencer in various blogs. In addition, she gladly volunteered her time at church to help supplement various administrative duties, while also lending a hand to execute special events like conferences and nights of worship. But more importantly, she kept our family her number one ministry. I wish I could say the same…
Although I had a job requiring extensive travel, I happily volunteered my time to serving in the parking lot ministry at church. As a lover of people, rain or shine, I loved welcoming people in to a place that helped shape my faith. After years of running away from the Lord, I experienced the love of the Father at that place for the first time in a long time. Because our lives changed for the better after getting involved, anytime someone drove into the parking lot - I wanted them to feel like we did the first time we visited; welcomed and wanted: loved, valued, & believed in. It was here our circle of friends grew, too. New found friends felt like family. As the lyrics to one of my favorite Gallery Cat songs goes, “Life is great and it’s only getting better.” It seemed too good to be true.
Seven months after we started following Jesus, and after nearly being bankrupted by a business deal gone bad, I started using again.
Delusional, destructive, and filled with the type of anger that spits in your wifes face while calling her a whore, I was out of control. Intervening, our mentors stepped in an attempt to address the distress I was causing those around me, but I wanted nothing to do with their help. Because in active addiction, I only care about self-preservation. Filled with pride and indignation, rather than confess, I withdrew and hid. Without Kaitlyn knowing the extent of my deception, drug withdrawal was masked as the flu and with lies out the wazoo, she remained faithful during sickness and in health.
16 months later, I blindsided my wife with the revelation of a cocaine, methamphetamine, and pornography addiction. Within three hours, I was enrolled in an inpatient rehabilitation program. Because of my fear of rejection (what people would think and how they would respond) I hid my baggage until it exploded beyond containment. Forgoing what many spouses do in her situation, she helped me get healthy…and that was only the start.
Though she did not do everything right, she did the right thing by showing up. She helped me when I asked and offered when I didn’t. Without knowing if I would ever recover, she put her dreams and aspirations on pause. She said yes to our marriage, when she could have very well said no. With biblical grounds for termination, she could have walked away; my actions broke our sacred covenant vows of marriage.
I was unfaithful.
I was deceitful.
Was she angry? Yes. She said things she will tell you she regrets.
Did she lash out? She will tell you yes.
Does this make it right? No.
Did she do the best she could with what she had? I believe she did.
Was her trust always planted in Jesus? No.
Did she lean into the pain and press in - even when she wanted to give up? YAAAAAAAS!
In my experience, Kaitlyn is a very reasonable person…even when it doesn’t make sense and although things got worse, she remained consistent in a sea of change.
Shortly after I completed drug and alcohol rehabilitation, our church home severed ties with us. Overnight, everything changed as we became estranged from the friends who once seemed like family. Phones once ringing off the hook, went radio silent. Our text message inquiries went unanswered. Blacklisted without a support system.
Within months, everything we built slipped away.
Savings gone. 401k drained. We could barely afford the dollar menu. We were so broke, we couldn’t pay attention. With so much on her plate, Kaitlyn stopped writing - the online presence she once had slipped away. It seemed our dreams were unraveling one by one.
Separated for recovery reasons, I lived in a sober living home 45 minutes away from my bride. On top of working entry level retail jobs, we invested in thousands of hours in counseling: trauma, abuse, addiction, and marriage. With church hurt deep as the horizon, we dragged ourselves to another community. Then, when things were starting to look up, I’d relapse and the cycle would start all over again.
When I asked her why she remained committed to our marriage, Kaitlyn replied, “Our marriage isn’t about us, it’s about Jesus.”
For your Maker is your bridegroom,
his name, God-of-the-Angel-Armies!
Your Redeemer is The Holy of Israel,
known as God of the whole earth.
(Isaiah 54:5 MSG)
Even when our #stephensfairytale turned dark, my wife lead like a champion. She loves fiercely and fights for what she believes ferociously. She lays down her life for her friends. Late night phone calls, early morning coffees, walking with people side-by-side in times of trauma and abuse. She leans in. She drops off random flowers and writes encouraging notes. She prays diligently and she does what she says she will do. Her words are steeped in scripture and backed with action. Though Cardi B encourages us to do whatever we like in the song “I Do” rapping, “No wonder, wonder why I do whatever I like, I do what I like, I do, I do…” Kaitlyn does the things people do not want to do.
Like Jesus, my wife enthusiastically serves people. She is a Proverbs 31 Woman of God! A butt-kicking, name-taking, real-deal-warrior-princess, who in humility, lifts up the name of Jesus above every other name! She is the love of my life and my biggest supporter. She can do that because she let’s Jesus support her when I cannot.
Kaitlyn, you are better than any Disney Princess because you are real. You are not fake. You do not give up on people when it gets hard. Like Jesus, you remain faithful, even when suffering at the hands of those you are being faithful to! You are my best friend and my comrade, the Lewis to my Clark, and the cookie butter to my spoon. I love you!
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs." (1 Corinthians 13:4-5 NIV)
You may ask, how did we do it? How did we make it? How did Kaitlyn stay consistent while her spouse was in the throes of drug addiction? Because throughout recovery, we put our trust and faith in the Lord. Left to our natural disposition, we disappoint each other and everyone around us. The type of love romanticized in movies, pales in comparison to the love the Father has for us. When we are planted in His presence, we are able to pour out His love into others.
I know, because I’ve seen my wife do it.