Wesley Hill, Washed And Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality, Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 2010. 160 pages.
This book deserves to be read. Wesley Hill’s voice is needed both in the church and in the wider culture. In his beautifully written and deeply honest book, Washed and Waiting, Hill reflects on his journey as both a homosexual man and a Christian. If you are looking for fuel for the cultural debate surrounding human sexuality, look elsewhere. Hill spends little time ‘arguing’ and even less ‘convincing’ people. Instead, he seeks to share his life as a celibate gay Christian and tell others that they are not alone.
Living with the twin truths of being gay and Christian, Hill presents an often-pained picture of his struggle. He has prayed and not been healed of his desires. He is persuaded by the weight of Scripture and the fullness of the Christian witness that to act on his homoerotic desires would be wrong. Yet he recognizes why the biblical prohibitions seem to fall flat for many people, but seeks to understand why the commands were given and to identify the story that would make sense of the commands.
In the first part of the book, Hill shares the biblical vision that challenges him to a life of celibacy. More than simply one set of texts or another, Hill finds the larger shape of the Christian story to make sense of the call for him to live a life of celibacy. He identifies four aspects of the story that he finds compelling: the promise of forgiveness, the reality that all people stand in need of God’s transformation of their desires, that our bodies belong to God, and the value of patient suffering in Christ. The second part of the book deals largely with the loneliness that has accompanied Hill’s journey and his struggles to find love and community. In the last section, he speaks of the shame that often accompanies a homosexual Christian and the challenge to believe that one is beloved.
I found Washed and Waiting both challenging and compelling. The book is hopeful even as it speaks of deep pain. It is theologically and biblically rich even as it delves into the depths of human experience. Again and again, Hill shows how the mercy of God is good news to him and to all of us. It is a book every Christian should read for at least three reasons.
First, Washed and Waiting complicates our picture of Christianity and homosexuality. Without vitriol, Hill shows a different picture than is usually seen of either homosexual men or the Church. He does this with a level of authenticity and personal investment that speaks volumes. Second, reading Washed and Waiting invites compassion for Hill and others like him who struggle with their sexuality. The story of the loneliness and shame experienced by homosexual Christians should call us to greater love as we follow Christ together. Finally, Washed and Waiting invites each of us to see ourselves in his struggle. While the particular contours of his struggle are unique, every Christian wrestles with indwelling sin. Though the battles look different and have varying levels of intensity, we all have temptations that never seem to go away, only subside for a time. While the story Hill tells is certainly his own, it is also, in some way, the story of every Christian as we are washed clean and waiting for the fullness of redemption.