I’m a Pastor’s daughter, and I walked down the aisle of Calvary Baptist Church asking Jesus to be my Savior when I was 9 years old. As a child I loved attending church, singing in the choir and being part of my youth group. I even went on a mission trip at 14. However, my family had a lot of problems and there were many times when chaos ruled and no one wanted to go to church. So I’d hop on my bicycle and go alone. My parents are good people. Throughout my childhood, I learned valuable things from them. Daddy’s generosity is legendary. He often picked up hitchhikers and they’d leave his car with the gospel in their heart and my daddy’s coat on their back. He’s a prayer warrior. I saw him on his knees countless times throughout childhood. I know his faithful prayers for 10 years are what brought me back to God.
My mother taught me perseverance; to hang in and not give up. I watched her do it for years. Mother said Daddy was either the best husband and father in the world or the worst nightmare, sort of a Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde. He was, during those years, a rageaholic, totally controlled by his anger. When he would lose his temper, he’d become verbally and physically abusive to my mother, sisters and me. One name I remember being called often was “the devil’s prostitute.” WORDS HAVE POWER! Mother was often discouraged and depressed. There wasn’t much physical affection, either between my parents or toward us girls. I remember hearing the words “I love you” only a few times in my life. One of those few times is a vivid memory. I was 15, and lying in a hospital bed after I’d attempted suicide with two bottles of pills. Thankfully God had other plans for me. Compounding these serious family problems was the abuse I suffered at school. I was bullied and called names. It was not a safe place. I became interested in boys at a young age. Mother called me a “boy chaser.” In reality I was a love chaser and was desperately seeking love and affection. Boys took advantage of that weakness. I became pregnant at 15, after having sex for the first time, and was abandoned by the father of my baby. My family rallied and helped me to raise my daughter so I could graduate from high school BUT something happened internally for me. I made a serious turn at that point. I’d begged God for years to change my messed up family. I knew He could. I knew He was all powerful, but nothing changed. Things just seemed to grow worse. I took that to mean that He didn’t care. When we feel like we are being rejected, we retreat.
There was also my church family. They weren’t blatantly ugly over my pregnancy, but I remember the looks of disdain and whispers as I walked by. The message came through loud and clear. I had been demoted from the preacher’s kid on the front row to the prodigal on the back pew. I was mad, and I blamed God for the shortcomings of his people. I remember saying, “OK God, if this is what you have to offer, I don’t need you.” I turned my back on God and my faith, and became a prodigal child. At eighteen my daughter and I moved to Florida where I had friends. They invited me to a gay bar for the first time. I was apprehensive, but I was more curious…so I went. The experience was “surreal” and unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. One of the things that drew me in was how totally accepted I felt. I didn’t feel judged for my past and people were interested in me. So I went back again and again. In a short time, they began to feel like my family. It also wasn’t long before I was pursued by a woman. I’d never had that kind of attention before. I don’t know how else to explain it other than, it was intoxicating. To be wanted and desired when I’d always felt unloved and unwanted was overwhelming. I’d always loved and admired women. When all the other girls had posters of boys in their rooms I had posters of Marcia Brady and Farrah. When a woman put her arms around me for the first time it felt like something I’d always needed but never had. It wasn’t about sex. I was again desperately seeking love, affection and acceptance and buying into a lie about how to attain it.
About a year later at 20 years old, I moved home to NC, and found in Asheville a large gay community. I became entrenched in it quickly and before long they felt like family. I dated women for a while, but it wasn’t long before I met and began a relationship with THE woman – the one with whom I thought I’d spend the rest of my life. She and I lived and raised my daughter together for 8 years. I felt, for the first time, what I thought was real love. It sure was powerful. It had such a grip on me but during the last few years of that relationship my discontent grew because her love was not deep enough to fill that empty well within me. I remember lying on my couch late one night. It was the first time I’d talked to God in years, I said out loud, “I know this is wrong, but I love her and I can’t leave. Please God,” I begged, “Change my feelings so I can leave.” I can hear His response as plain today as that night. He said, “No Meleah, You Leave and I’ll then I’ll change your feelings.” That was NOT the answer I wanted to hear. It was another two years before I had the courage to leave. God used a number of situations to orchestrate my return to Him, but the main thing was my child. I began to be concerned for her spiritual welfare. No matter how I was living I knew that I was a believer and that if I died I was going to Heaven, but I wasn’t so sure about her. I hadn’t darkened the door of church in 10 years. My parents had taken her when they could but that wasn’t often. “Coincidently” a coworker invited me to her church. All I remember her saying was it was a great place for kids. Never underestimate the power of inviting someone to church because that Sunday in that church began a life change that continues today. So it was Easter Sunday, and I knew that was a Sunday I could sneak in undetected. That church was different, and I knew it immediately. It was the warmest, friendliest place I’d ever been. They didn’t have fake smiles but instead they exuded the joy of the Lord. Within a few minutes of arriving, people were hugging us. We were strangers and they treated us like long lost relatives returning home. The music was vibrant and moving. They sang praise and worship songs. I’d never heard those before. These folks were worshipping uninhibited and unashamed. It was something else. During the service that deep and empty well within me began to be filled to the point where it just overflowed out of my eyes and tears streamed down my face. I knew what I had to do. At the end of the service, I ran down the aisle and asked Jesus to be the Lord of my life. It wasn’t “surreal” as it had been in the gay bar, it was SO REAL. My decision wasn’t hard, but walking it out would not be easy. I knew I could not stay with my girlfriend though. In that moment, the love I experienced from HIM overshadowed all other love, even my love for her. So He had been true to His promise. After that church service, my girlfriend and I spent the next three days crying together. She tried to talk me out of leaving. I tried to explain to her what had happened to me, but she couldn’t hear me through her own pain. She left. It was very hard. She’d been my best friend for 8 years. That was over 20 years ago and A LOT has happened since then. Healing has been a process. God has blessed me with a husband and with him I have experienced true covenant love. Marriage is not a sign of my healing because quite frankly I went into it way too quickly and still very broken. I was a mess, he was a mess and we did NOT make a message! We made a bigger mess for a long time. But we stuck together through the super-glue of Jesus, and He has worked it all out and brought a healing to me that I never could have found through any other avenue. Because God has such an amazing sense of humor he gave a man-hating former lesbian three sons! Through all 4 of my men I have learned about the beauty and glory of manhood, so today I am a man-lover. God has also blessed me with two granddaughters, from my lovely, married, Christian daughter. The one who I raised for the first 10 years of her life in a lesbian relationship is a wonderful mother and is crazy about Jesus…a picture of his marvelous mercy.
Almost a decade ago, God said it was time to come out of the Christian closet. I’d been there for 13 years, hiding, wearing a mask, terrified that if they knew about my past in homosexuality it would NOT go well for me. If you remember I’d experienced some negative consequences in that arena after getting pregnant at 15. But the Lord said it was time to be free. Freedom is exactly what I found. Once I was truly known, I could experience the feeling of being truly loved. So much of my deeper healing has happened over the past 10 years. My husband and kids have been there every step of the way, supporting and cheering me on. My willingness to be transparent allowed God to birth a ministry which has redeemed my life in a very practical way. All those early years weren’t wasted. God is using it all. It has brought tremendous healing! Romans 8:28 is as real to me as my name. Being a part of Exodus for the past 8 years has allowed me to be exposed to teaching that has given me a revelation of God’s grace and has changed me in ways and brought freedom that I could have never imagined. I assure you this journey is SO worth it. My identity has been all over the place in my lifetime. I was a lesbian prodigal. When I came “home,” a Christian Counselor called me a Prodigy but I never felt like one. I tried to believe I was His Princess, but I’ve never been able to fully receive that either. I always felt like more of a Warrior Princess. My identity has been in being a wife, mother, professional career woman and many other things that were only meant to be roles. Today, I know I’m simply Meleah…His Girl and that is truly all I need to know! He loves me more than I love my girl and that is amazing to me!! I know three things for sure. 1) He loves me and nothing I could ever do will make Him love me less. 2) He will never leave me or forsake me. Again, none of my shortcomings or failures affects His nearness to me. Jesus already took care of that problem. 3) Lastly, He has a most excellent plan for my life. It is so much grander than anything I could ever dream up for myself. I’m living it. Oh…I know one more thing…all these things are true for you too.