Neil Novotnak – My Testimony For The Permanence Of Marriage
I have previously placed this testimony on Facebook, yet here is the updated version. I apologize for the length of this testimony. However, there is so much more that can be included in this. I have purposely left out my experiences with the local churches in my area. It grieves me to add clarity to this as many whom I love and care about clearly do not understand the pain that I experience on a day to day basis since giving all out to this very crucial MDR ministry. This is my cross to bear…
I was raised in a Christian/Catholic blended family and was 1 of 6 children. My Dad was strict Roman Catholic and he ruled the household. Therefore, I always had head knowledge of my faith and who God was and the knowledge of Christ being a Savior. It would take many years of bad decisions, a love of the world, and devastating consequences before I would come to salvation in Christ. My testimony starts in a summer field with a pack of matches in my hand at the age of 11. I was bored and began to ask what I could do with a pack of matches. We know that we can use matches for many things. We know when you strike a match it produces a flame. This particular day I decided to use these matches to light blades of grass and very quickly put the flame out. I knew what I was doing could have consequences, but I felt at the time I was in control. I knew what I was doing. I would light the grass, let it flame up a little and then I would stamp it out. I kept doing this and each time I did it, I would let it burn longer and longer. Before too long, I became rather careless and would toss the match on to the grass and let it light and stamp it out. As I was half way through the pack, I began to realize that what I was doing was not right. However, with that in mind I just did not care and threw a match into a clump of grass again.
Suddenly the field erupted into flame. There was fire 5 feet in diameter around me and no amount of stomping and jumping was putting it out. I really felt an awful feeling creeping up inside of me. I panicked and did not know what to do. The only thing I could think of was water. I need water. I ran into the house, got a 12-ounce cup of water from the faucet, and ran out to extinguish the flames. When I got back outside the fire was 12 feet in diameter. In complete horror, I ran for another cup, and back out again. The third time I ran in I knew I was in trouble. The fire was out of control, and no matter what I did, it was ineffective. As I ranto the sink in obvious distress, my biggest fear stood right in front of me,all six foot of him. My Dad said to me, “What are you doing?”
Immediately I burst into tears and begged for forgiveness. I told my Dad what I had done and I was terrified.Without a word, my Dad ran outside, got everyone together and within 10 minutes we extinguished the fire. My dad never once afterwards mentioned a thing about it. He never punished me or grounded me. Well you think I would learn a lesson at this time but the fact is….I kept that pack of matches and continued in life.
When I was around 12 years old, I found and looked at my first Playboy magazine. Many years ago, that picture would twist and pervert the truth of my view of a woman in the years that followed. I knew back then as a twelve-year-old boy that taking that Playboy magazine and adding it to my private collection of comic books and sports magazines was wrong. I could blame those friends of mine who said that a Playboy magazine was a valuable commodity, yet I kept them hidden from my parents. My conscience told me it was wrong to have these magazines and as I look back to those times, it was the Holy Spirit convicting me of sin. The years would pass and my own twisted and perverted view of women would keep me from having true relationships with people of the opposite sex. I would be embarrassed to communicate or associate with girls in school because of my inability to understand that girls were more than naked photographs. This mindset as I neared my senior year in high school I never got involved with girls unless there was the idea that I would have to have sex with them. I was a virgin all throughout high school and thought that I would never have a relationship with anyone. It was always my idea of how and why I should be with a girl and had little to do with what God intended for my life.
When I was a teen, I had this dream to be a rock guitarist. Eventually I learned to play guitar, and started band. I thought we could play songs like, breaking the law, highway to hell and running with the devil. I thought they were not that bad and I knew I was a Christian and they are just songs, right? Well as I got older, I started to drink and get drunk on the weekends and continued this wild life. The band started making our own songs and we had these grand aspirations of making it big.
My first time I had sex with a girl was the worst experience of my life. It never should have happened and I regret it to this day. Deep inside of my soul, I knew I broke a covenant that God alone had intended for me. I then began to use pornography as a means for self-gratification and to build my own lack of self-esteem in my life. These pictures never fulfilled me and they left me feeling worthless in the end. I would never fully understand this until many years later and continued to live this unfulfilled lifestyle of self-gratification through pornography. I was a slave to sin.
I never went to college after high school, so I started to work for a living. One day while I was at work, I received a phone call from my brother-in-law. He said my Dad fell off a ladder and was in the hospital. When I got to the hospital, I found out my Dad had a massive heart attack and a few hours later he died. The date was Oct. 14th, 1984. It was one of the worst days of my life. I say one of the worst days, because I want you to remember that date, Oct. 14. After a few months went by, my Mom said she was moving into a 2-bedroom apartment with my younger sister. I did the math and knew that at 21 years old, I had to find a place to live. I asked a friend if I could move in with him and he said yes.
Then one day I met the woman I would marry. I thought that once I became married I would no longer need pictures or photographs to stimulate my sexual desires. My relationship with my wife was based on worldly ideas of how a man should sexually please his partner and not on what God ordained as the gift of marriage between a man and a woman that is so eloquently displayed in the letter of Ephesians. My idea of a man’s love for a woman was twisted and perverted by pornography and not by God’s plan. The twisted vision I had within my marriage would prove fatal.
She was living with her sister and I was living with my friend in a room the size of a shoebox. We eventually dated and decided that we should live together. She was separated from her husband and was going through a divorce. We fornicated many times before she was even divorced, thus I committed adultery. Before too long, the “getting married ”thing came along. We went to the local church and asked if the pastor would marry us. I had left the Catholic faith as soon as my Dad passed away and was now joining a UCC church based on my assumption that it was a Christian church.
The pastor was very apprehensive to marry us because my girlfriend was recently divorced. He inquired about the divorce and she said that she left her husband because of abuse. He said God forgave her and said her divorce and our remarriage was acceptable. I will never forget what he said to us when our class completed. He said, “You must promise to never divorce if I marry you.” He made us go through a marriage class and I really began to see how important marriage was. It is a sacred covenant where a man and a woman become one flesh. There was however a check in the spirit when I read the bible concerning divorce. I shrugged this feeling off and was confident on the pastor’s assurance of our wedding. I began to become active in the church that married us and was growing spiritually, or so I thought.
After we got married, we started to build our dreams. The dreams were a big house, new cars, a boat and a family. Our son was born that next year and we were on our way. God was for Sundays at that time in my life. Eventually we both had good jobs and our “wants” were being fulfilled. In all outward appearances, we seemed happy.
Then one day I was offered a great opportunity in my company, a supervisor’s position that would nearly double my salary. The only catch was it would be a 2nd shift position, which my boss said would only be a year or two. What they say and what actually happens are two different things. After five years on 2nd shift, I became a very bitter person. I began to hate my boss; in fact, I entertained thoughts of which I am not proud.
One day we bought our very first computer and it was with great anxiety that I installed it and connected to the internet. My whole desire to have a computer was for accessing new means in which to view pornography. I got my wish and it would be many years that my sinful nature would regress to a point of destruction. It was late one evening when I came home from work and was drawn by the lusts of perversion to view images that no one should be subjected to. It was this one time that my wife would clearly see who I really was. She caught me in the act of visual adultery and I hurt her deeply. I apologized to her and said I would never do this again. That was a lie. That horrible day, combined with the bitterness of my job spilled into my relationship with my wife. The many workdays away from my family were horrible. I thought things would change when I found out my job was moving to Mexico and I would go to school free, but a week after I lost my job, my wife lost her job.
Our finances were significantly reduced and our lifestyle was not. My wife returned to work and I was in school, but our relationship was unremarkable at best. Eventually we stopped going to church and my wife was starting to act peculiar. I began to become mistrustful because of my own pornography addiction. Then I felt there was a significant difference in my wife’s behavior. I asked her what was wrong; she said that we needed to talk. We went on a walk and she told me that she did not love me anymore and that she wanted a divorce. A few days later I found out she fell in love with another man she was confiding with at her workplace. The day was Oct 14th, 2006, twenty–two years to the day of the death of my dad.
You see, I still had that pack of matches. I was lighting them and burning up the grass. I was playing rock music that had evil verses. I was living with someone and I was not married all the while committing adultery. I was living for the good life. I was bitter in my job, my home. I had a perverted view of women and what it takes to be a husband and father. I was a Christian, right?
When I lit that last match and threw it on the ground, there was an inferno. The flames were so high; I was consumed with the deepest, darkest despair. I was burning alive. My dreams were gone. My wife, whom I thought I made a covenant with, did not love me anymore. The death of my Dad paled in comparison to my wife not loving me anymore. I became afraid. I failed my marriage, my family, my friends, and my God. I suddenly realized what total separation of love was. It was despair. I did not know what to do.
As the fire burned out of control, I received a letter in the mail from the church we stopped attending. I now knew I needed water. The letter was for a three-week sermon series. I went the first two weeks and knew it was not enough. Finally, the third week I decided that it was not about me anymore. I thought that I am going to church because of me, and not because of God. I decided I would go because of Him that day. I truly believed in my heart that He was God and He deserved to be praised.
With tears streaming down my face, in full repentance of all my sins and a heartfelt fear of God, I asked Jesus Christ to be the Lord and Savior of my life. Within an instant, a great wave of love flooded my body and the very presence of the Holy Spirit filled my soul. No relationship or covenant can compare to the relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I finally knew the way to the truth, and it was through my Lord Jesus. I live for Him for He is my way, my truth, and my life. I felt even a greater love of an earthly father who put the fire out and never condemned me because I was truly repentant. I was lost but then was found; I was blind but then could see.
The immediate work God began to create in me was a deep reverence for the covenant of marriage. I knew in my heart of hearts I was not a man who loved his wife as Christ loved the church. I was an unrepentant adulterer who used pornography and this adversely affected our marriage. I knew that I needed to forgive my wife for her choices but I also made it clear that what she was doing was wrong. I talked to both her and her boyfriend and said that I would not pursue divorce. I told them God would want them to dissolve their relationship and she was to reconcile to me and her boyfriend was to reconcile with his wife.
At that time in my life, I was willing to wait until death for the reconciliation of the marriage. I firmly believed that we were married and that no one could separate this. It was about this time that I began to tell this to others. Looking back now, I know that my “stand” convicted others who divorced and remarried. I often felt alone even among church family. This feeling of loneliness resulted from my belief in the permanence of marriage. Yet, I was separated and not yet divorced. Married people felt uneasy around me, and single people saw me as a divorced person.
Over the course of five years, I became active in a divorce recovery ministry with a stance on remaining single so that the marriage would be reconciled. I firmly believed God would work in both their lives as I prayed for the restoration of my marriage. One evening I was thinking about the moment my wife caught me on the computer viewing pornography. There was this deep desire to repent of this day and I needed to tell her face to face. I called her up immediately and asked if I could meet with her to tell her something. She would not agree to meet me face to face so I reluctantly told her over the phone. I told her that I was deeply sorry for hurting her that day. I told her that I knew that this was a day that I broke her heart. There was silence and then she began to weep. I begged her to forgive me as I too began to cry. She told me that that very morning she was thinking about that day and how much it upset her. She said that she forgave me and we both agreed this was time of restoration for our souls.
A few years passed and my desire to remain single for the restoration did not wane. However, I began to read scripture and could not help being convicted of what the Lord and Paul both say about marriage, divorce and remarriage. There were moments in the divorce recovery group videos that the scholars and pastors were saying about marriage, divorce and remarriage that simply did not align with scripture. I became convinced that marriage was a lifetime covenant no man may break. It was about this time that I began to assess my own marriage.
In 1985, I started dating my wife when she was still married to her first husband. I began to realize that my marriage was not really a marriage after all because my wife was still in a covenant with her first husband. She had no grounds to divorce her husband and we had no grounds to marry each other. It was with these convictions I began to seek repentance from her first husband. I sent him a detailed letter of my sin and sought forgiveness from him for not allowing restoration of his marriage to take place. The very day I mailed the letter to him at the post office upon returning home, I received the divorce papers from my wife ending our unlawful marriage. She paid for the divorce process and it mattered little if I signed them or not. Our unlawful marriage was officially over in the eyes of the state, the government, and the world.
I told my wife that we were never married and that I pray that she would reconcile with her first husband. I then wrote letters to my family and told them that our marriage was unlawful from the start and that were both were living in adultery. I also told many Christian brothers and sisters that my marriage was invalid. I also told the co-facilitator of the divorce recovery program that my marriage was invalid and that I would discontinue to support that program because of faulty stances on marriage, divorce and remarriage. I also wrote to this particular divorce ministry to tell them their stance on remarriage was not according to the word of God.
It was through this admission that I received less than ample support from my immediate circle of influence. Many in my family do not understand, and many Christians do not understand this stance. Some tell me that since there is very few whom view scripture as it pertains to marriage, divorce, and remarriages, I must be wrong. I have approached some brothers who I consider honorable husbands in their own right. They seem reluctant to agree with my stance, yet do not argue the validity of my statements. I was hoping for some support from my immediate circle of influence and have found none. I have since gone viral with my stance with a group on Facebook that stands with scripture for the permanency of marriage. I have also sent out questionnaire inquiries to 50 pastors from various denominations asking them specific questions on marriage, divorce, and remarriage. This is my official blog on the permanence of marriage.
I have also contacted Focus on the Family and Dr. Dobson about their stance on marriage, divorce, and remarriage without favorable results. I am determined to show the world that marriage is a lifetime covenant before God that no man may break. Divorce is hardheartedness that says a person refuses to forgive no matter the circumstance. Divorce also says that a spouse is unwilling to use church discipline to create an opportunity to reconcile the marriage. Remarriage after divorcing a living spouse is always adultery and anyone who marries a divorced person who has a living spouse commits adultery. This adultery is a state of adultery if the “remarriage” remains intact.
This is my testimony. I will continue to fight for the permanence of marriage and will stand firm in believing that any “remarriage” after divorce of a living spouse is always a state of continuous adultery. Repentance of adultery is dissolving the union so that singleness and/or reconciliation of the first covenant can occur. I believe the Lord Jesus Christ wants us to repent of adultery so that grace may abound. If you have any questions about what I believe scripture says about God’s covenant of marriage please read my other bog posts. I pray that God gets the glory and I pray that marriage becomes an example of Christ’s love for His church.
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
Note: Neil’s testimony and more can be found at his blog Genesis 2:24.