By Mark Ellis —
While still in high school, she closed her heart to the opposite sex and embraced a lesbian identity with open arms. Years later, she and her live-in lesbian partner attended church together, which started them on path of surprising spiritual discovery.
“As young as 13 I was already confused about my sexuality,” says Melissa Fryrear. She recalls sitting in church with her parents and casually opening the Bible to Leviticus 18:22, which reads “A man should not lie with another man as one lies with a woman: that is detestable.”
When she read the verse, she misunderstood the meaning and thought it meant: ‘Melissa is detestable.’ She closed the Bible and shut her heart to God. “I was already questioning whether I might be gay,” she says. “A seed was beginning to take root in the soul of my heart.”
As her early teenage years unfolded, she was tormented as she developed crushes on girls. “I hate being a girl,” she told herself. “Why couldn’t I have been born a boy instead?”
Fryrear’s freshman year of high school was the last time she dated a young man. One day between classes he handed her a note asking if she would be his girlfriend. The note asked her to check a box: Yes or No. “I checked the ‘No’ box,” she says, refolded the note and slipped it into his locker later that afternoon. Then she erected a wall toward men. “I tried to look like a man in a suit of armor,” she says.
At 16 she got involved in her first homosexual relationship, and estimates she was intimate with 40 other women during the next ten years. “I immersed myself in the gay and lesbian community. Everything in my world revolved around being gay,” she says.
A witness at work
After college, Fryrear worked at an advertising agency owned my three men. One of the owners, Bill Martinez, happened to be a Christian. “I worked more closely with Bill than I did with the other two owners,” she says. “I assumed he knew I was living homosexually. Because I presumed to know what Christians thought of gays and lesbians, I fully expected Bill to treat me poorly.
“I expected him to judge me and to act rudely and unkindly, but he never did. Instead, without exception, he treated me with kindness and always showed me respect, both professionally and personally,” she notes.
Over time, her conversations with Bill gravitated to spiritual issues. When Martinez discussed his relationship with Jesus it was always with incredible enthusiasm and contagious zeal, yet he never forced his faith on her.
Martinez never confronted Fryrear about her homosexuality. “Although I had grown up attending church I had not accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior,” she says. “Bill understood this was my first and greatest need.” After dozens of conversations with Martinez, something began to stir in her soul.
Out of the blue on a Saturday night, Fryrear asked her live-in lesbian partner if she wanted to go to church the next morning. Amazingly, she agreed to go. Fryrear’s partner had grown up in the Catholic church and as a young girl had even wanted to be a nun. Both women’s hearts seemed to be in a state of spiritual ferment.
A visit to church
They grabbed the yellow pages, and began to look at the listings under “Churches.” Because Fryrear had grown up in the Presbyterian Church, they headed there the next morning dressed in their Sunday best.
They nervously walked through the entry doors and slid into a pew near the back. After a few moments they realized it was a small congregation of predominantly older couples. “My lesbian partner and I stood out in stark contrast to the other church goers that Sunday morning, particularly the ‘blue hairs’ as we endearingly refer to them below the Mason-Dixon line.”
Fryrear was shocked when the members of this small town church in the center of Bible-belt America treated her with unexpected kindness and warmth. “Overwhelmed by their friendliness, we decided to go back the next Sunday, and then the Sunday after that,” she says. “Before too long I was accepting invitations to everything the church offered — Wednesday night potluck dinners, an adult Sunday morning Bible study and much to the chagrin of the pastor’s wife, I joined the adult hand bell choir.”
An older couple in their 70’s, L.J. and Doris Crain, took Fryrear into their spiritual care. “L.J. was an intelligent and gentle man and Doris, his wife, was red haired and had a spirited personality to match; and oh my how they both loved the Lord Jesus. It was infectious.”
During this period, Fryrear appeared to fit many people’s stereotype of a lesbian. “I was very masculine and mannish in my appearance. I was cussing, 50 pounds overweight, and smoked a pack and a half of cigarettes a day.”
Although Bill, L.J. and Doris knew about Fryrear’s involvement in homosexuality they accepted her with grace, loved her unconditionally and prayed for her fervently. “I was so soiled and tainted; but they accepted me with such merciful grace and loved me unconditionally no matter what I did wrong.”
Partly due to these loving Christian relationships, Fryrear was led to make the most important decision of her life. One afternoon, sitting alone in the bedroom on the edge of her bed, she said quietly, “Jesus, would You please come and be the Savior of my soul and the Lord of my life?” And He did. A new seed was planted in her heart that day.
Fryrear’s lesbian partner gave her a Bible, an NIV Study Bible in blue leather with silver edged pages and the words of Jesus in red. “I began to read that Bible and it wasn’t long before I learned what a concordance is.”
As she read the passages dealing with homosexuality, she fought against God. “I had trouble yielding to this truth because my faith was so new and I was so immature. During that season I argued with the Lord, pleaded with Him, fled from Him and rebelled against Him. ‘God,’ I shouted, ‘I didn’t ask for these feelings! I don’t know where they’ve come from and I don’t know how to get rid of them. To me homosexuality feels normal; it feels like I’ve been born this way. I don’t know what to do or where to go from here. But this I now know and believe, You are real and Your Word is true. God, please help me!’
But over many months the Word and the Spirit began to transform her thoughts and attitudes. “The Holy Spirit of God continued to work those truths deeper and deeper into my heart until I came to that point of gentle, yet precise, conviction and I finally yielded to the truth that living homosexually was wrong.
“During those wilderness months — even in the midst of my rebellious rage and defiant disobedience — God persistently pursued me with His passionate love and in 1992, by His amazing grace, I repented of my years of sexual sin and that new seed sprouted.”
Fryrear got in touch with Exodus International, a Christian ministry helping individuals and families affected by unwanted homosexuality. “I began my journey to overcome homosexuality — a journey that would take years” that were difficult and painful, but a journey she “would never hesitate to choose again.”
With the help of Christian counselors, mentors, and friends, Fryrear slowly uncovered the factors that contributed to her struggle with same-sex attraction and began to work through those one at a time. “Overcoming this identity as well as the unwanted same-sex attraction took place gradually,” she says.
“What the Lord has done in my life is nothing short of miraculous,” she exclaims. “There are also so many things He’s done that seem like mysteries. I say mysteries because I know that things are so radically different and yet I’m not aware how He actually accomplished the changes. I do know what He worked through though: His Word, His People and His Holy Trinity.”
Fryrear’s involvement in a women’s Bible study at her church was life-changing. “When the Lord first impressed on my heart to go to the study I flatly refused,” she admits.
“The women and I never discussed my struggle with lesbianism, although I was alright with the fact that they knew, but just being among them, sharing life — at times laughing hysterically and at other times crying uncontrollably — straightened out (pun intended) so many distorted perceptions regarding womanhood. In time I began to see myself truly as one of them versus so unlike and different than them. This new perspective alone was hugely transformative. As the wounds that contributed to my broken gender identity healed, slowly God’s inherent femininity began to blossom.”
As Fryrear’s healing progressed, a new season dawned. “With my identity as a woman more secure and firmly rooted, I next turned my eyes — and opened my heart — to the opposite sex. Grrrr! Now, if you think puberty is hard in your teen years, you should try it in your thirties! Wow, talk about a ride!”
Fryrear also went through a healing process with her parents. “They learned I was gay when I was 19. I was home from college for the Christmas holiday and one night over dinner my mom asked the question I dreaded she’d one day ask, ‘Melissa, are you gay?’ Her words pierced through the deafening silence that hung over that evening’s meal. When I answered ‘Yes,’ their hopes and dreams for their second adopted child, and only daughter, shattered. They were devastated and heartbroken. Some of my deepest and greatest regrets have to do with how I treated them in the years I lived homosexually. While they never condoned my involvement in homosexuality they never stopped loving me. To me they embodied the perfect Christ-like response — they balanced both truth and grace.”
“Today, over twenty years later, I have the most wonderful relationship with them, not only in what we share between parents and a child but within God’s family as well. Several years ago they made a public profession of faith and were baptized. How I thank God for giving me to them and them to me. Mom and Dad, I love you!”
Fryrear developed a profound reverence and love for each member of the Trinity, especially Jesus, her personal Savior and Lord. “How my heart bursts with love for Him. My magnificent, majestic and mighty King. The One who died for me, rescued me, delivered me and redeemed me. I fall prostate before Him, weep with exceedingly great joy and thanksgiving at His feet. I have never known a love like that which I have for and from my Bridegroom. He is the One for whom I live with all of my being, my beautiful cherished Lord. He is my all and my everything.”
Next to “Amazing Grace,” one of Fryrear’s most cherished hymns is Charles Wesley’s “And Can It Be That I Should Gain.”
The fourth stanza is her favorite: “Long my imprisoned spirit lay, fast bound in sin and nature’s night. Thine eye diffused a quickening ray. I woke, the dungeon flamed with light. My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose went forth and followed thee.”
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