Book Review: Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill – Part 1
Reviewed by Ward Shope
Washed and Waiting is a series of Christian theological and personal reflections written by a doctoral student who struggles with same sex attraction. Wesley Hill begins his story as a secret, frightened believer with forbidden yearnings in the church. He ends his biography as an open, integrated member of Christian community who has chosen celibacy as a lifestyle of faithfulness for Christ. The book is almost devotional at points, exploring the spiritual nuances of the gospel as they apply to his struggle. Even if he weren’t addressing same-sex yearnings, he provides us a model of what growing discipleship looks like as we live in a broken world.
This is not a “success” story. There is little movement away from his same-sex attractions during the course of his story, and Hill says he cannot even imagine what this might look like in his life. But we do see personal transformation grow in how he increasingly understands and welcomes his celibate struggle as an impetus and means to deeper relationship with Christ. After all, intimacy and union with Christ is the ultimate goal for all believers.
In the introduction, Hill explains his terminology. He calls himself a “gay Christian,” and more frequently a “homosexual Christian.” Since we hear this term from those who want to legitimize homosexual relations as a “Christian” alternative, it feels uncomfortable – probably both to those who want to legitimize homosexual practice as well as those who reject it. At Harvest USA, we feel that using a sexual orientation qualifier for Christians lessens one’s full and primary identity in Christ (see this blog for a excellent discussion on this topic). But Hill is absolutely on target in reminding us that there is, and always has been, a slice of the Christian church that has struggled, usually silently, with same-sex attraction while remaining faithful to Christ in their lifestyle. Hill provides a number of well-known names as representatives. There are more than we realize. God calls us in the church to understand, empathize and support them. Like all of us, whatever our sexual attractions, they are broken and Christ walks with them in their suffering.
You can’t take this journey of celibacy without accepting basic human brokenness caused by sin. Same-sex attraction is, like all brokenness, a result of the human race’s fall in Adam. And like all effects of the fall in our lives, we struggle to attain the goal of personal holiness that Christ calls all of us to strive for, as we wait for the coming glory when sexuality will no longer be an issue and intimacy will be complete in Christ. Those who have a small vision of the coming glory–when the coming of Christ again will usher in a restored humanity and world—that see sexual intimacy as a right, and that refuse suffering as part of the spiritual journey, will struggle with this book. But those who long for deep intimacy with Christ, understand the relational power of Christian community, and find Christian waiting profitable in the long run, will find this book encouraging and full of hope.