TESTIMONY OF FREEDOM
by Gary Hotchkiss
It is for freedom that Christ Jesus has set you free! - Galatians 5:1
I was raised in a very religious family - a good family, though. We attended church at least 3 times a week even if it meant driving for an hour one way. This set the stage for my life to become dedicated to God. I was always so impressed that my stingy, penny-pinching dad would put so much time, effort and money into church. So, I thought that there must be something to it.
My parents chose to shelter us from "the world". So, I was totally unprepared when, at age 10 or 11, an older cousin introduced me and my younger brothers to pornography. To this day, I clearly remember the very first picture he showed us.
It didn’t mean much to me at the time. But, when I was in my teens and the hormones began raging, I remembered those pictures and began craving them. The desire escalated into an addiction by my early twenties. It was now too late! I was hooked. I usually only ever acted out in purchasing magazines. But, I did go see a few XXX movies when I was in university.
I felt guilty about it every time I acted out, so I became very good at hiding my addiction because I was ashamed of it. When I got married, it didn’t openly affect the marriage, to my knowledge. If it did, my wife never let on. The marriage actually began crumbling long before she ever knew about it, or even could have suspected it. But, it did become an escape from the pain of being married to someone who wasn’t ’there’ in her heart.
In 1986, my wife gave me an ultimatum regarding the marriage. We were living in Toronto, Ontario at the time. I was about to begin a career which promised to be a very good one. She wanted to go back to North Bay, Ontario "with me or without me". She said that she didn’t want to live in such a big city anymore.
This was the first time in my life that I had a real, personal conversation with God. With His help, I decided to give up the career in the hope that the marriage would be saved. We moved back to North Bay and I discovered six months later that my wife’s real reason for wanting to move back was an affair she was having! She finally left me in 1991.
Even after the marriage breakdown, the addiction wasn’t something I acted out on very much. Getting the odd magazine or renting a movie was enough, it seemed. And later, the internet became a cheap and easy source.
Somehow, I knew that I needed to be rid of this horrible thing, but hadn’t the slightest idea as to how to do that. Such things were never talked about by my family. I continued to feel the guilt, but couldn’t seem to get a handle on it. Sometimes I would go for weeks even months without looking at any porn. But, it was always there - in my heart.
When I joined Full Gospel Business Mens Fellowship, I began attending a yearly meeting in Peterborough, Ontario called an Advance (because in FG we don’t retreat, we advance). I knew that God was calling on me to let it go and trust Him, especially at those meetings, but I was afraid of "being found out".
In 2004 when I was at the FG Advance, the Lord spoke very clearly to me. It was Saturday night, the last meeting. The speaker was making the altar call. Suddenly, he stopped in his tracks and I remember clearly that he cocked his head slightly, like he was listening to something. He even made the musician stop and he said, "God has just told me that there’s a man here who wants to be free from pornography. Come forward now and God will set you free!" Well, I knew but I knew but I KNEW that the man was me!!!
The problem is that I was standing there with my friends John and Ken on either side of me. If I was to go down there, I would have to have one or both move out of the way for me. Obviously, they would know that I struggled with porn. And, again, I felt that I couldn’t face the pain of being found out. I didn’t go down.
The following year, in 2005, I went into that weekend determined to be rid of this demon thing! The main speaker was Barry Adams, the author of "The Father’s Love Letter". Through the weekend he shared with us how he’d had a bad relationship with his father – as I had – and how he had struggled with an addiction to pornography and self-image – as I had!! He talked about the fact that he never had a very fruitful relationship with God because he didn’t have a good perception of God, and he had gotten into pornography as an escape. The whole time, I knew that THIS WAS IT – God was speaking directly to ME!
Through the weekend I spent a lot of time with my friend Eric. I shared everything with him. I mean ALL the details! I felt I needed to get a huge load off of my back. Eric shared a lot of his struggles with me as well. That encouraged me, that an older brother also struggled. He also spoke a number of things to me through the weekend that I knew in my heart were coming directly from God.
One of those was that God wanted me to know that He was proud of me and that I’d been doing a good job with my life!! How cool is that?! That God Almighty would be proud of ME!!
Another thing God told me was that I needed to forgive myself. That was almost a shock! I had never thought of that. But, with Eric’s help, I did that and immediately felt the pressure leaving.
Again, Saturday night comes… Barry was on stage; he was calling men forward. God was obviously there doing amazing things. Then, Barry said, "Any man here who has had a bad relationship with his dad, come forward." So, I went. Then, Barry told all of the other men to come down and stand behind those of us already there, and to place their hands on our shoulders or backs. That’s when it happened!!
I felt at least two or three hands on my back and shoulders. Then, I began to realize I was feeling a pair of hands there that were very different from the others. I began to concentrate on those Hands. Those arms surrounded me and I physically, literally felt myself picked up like a baby. I was in the arms of Father God!!! And, my head fell against His chest.
In an instant, I heard His heartbeat and saw/felt/sensed so many things! I cannot describe in human terms how long I was there. But, after some time Jesus touched my shoulder and pointed. I saw myself there on the ground, naked and dirty with chains wrapped around me. I couldn’t get up. I couldn’t do anything. As I watched, Jesus reached forward and touched the chains with His finger. The chains suddenly were breaking and falling to the ground … AND I WAS FREE!!!!! Then, I looked up and saw Jesus pointing way over there. Into the past. At the cross of Calvary. And I realized that He was showing me that I had been made free way back there! I had been free all the time, I just didn’t know it! I had been lied to and believed it. The chains were actually nothing! They hadn’t even really been there! And, now I was free to believe the truth and to begin walking out that freedom.
I don’t know how long I was there or what else the Lord showed me or said to me. I know there was more, but... in His time. Slowly, I came to realize that I was laying on the floor looking up at Barry on the stage. So, I just lay there for a bit soaking in the realization that I WAS FREE!!! I was wonderfully, gloriously free!
Since that day I have experienced a marked growth in strength. God had a recovery program called Celebrate Recovery begin in my home church. I have attended and have learned a lot about how to walk out the daily routine of recovery. Also, God has fulfilled a dream He gave me when my first wife was about to leave me. He had showed me the woman He had chosen for me! This gave me the strength to focus on Jesus rather than focusing on finding another wife. God waited 16 years, but He has brought me to that ’dream’ woman. We got married in July 2009!
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that God has been gracious enough to allow me to learn that I must "work out my own salvation with fear and trembling". Whereas I have met other men who were blessed with instantaneous freedom not only from the addiction but also from further temptation. God doesn’t always do the same thing the same way in different people.
His word is true when He says He comes to set the captive free! And, He has set us free for the sake of being free.
Praise God I’m free! I’m free! I’M FREE INDEED!! And, you can be as well!
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