I received a complimentary copy of Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality by Wesley Hill from Zondervan as part of their Blog Tour promotion. I purposefully signed up for this tour because I really wanted to read and engage with the writing and thoughts of a homosexual Christian who wrestled with identity and faithfulness.
I knew from the start that Wesley Hill and I would have a different understanding of God’s intention and homosexual orientation, but I sought to engage his story and see what his story could offer other homosexual Christians but also what it could offer the entire Body of Christ.
The first thing that everyone must recognize is that Hill is not writing this as an argument for his understanding of homosexuality but rather its purpose is to offer hope and a way of life for other homosexual Christians that hold the same beliefs as him. What are those beliefs? First and foremost, Hill recognizes himself as someone with homosexual orientation. In other words he was born as an individual who is only sexually attracted to individuals of the same sex. The second and equally important thing to realize is that Hill does not believe that homosexual orientation was ever the intention of God. Instead, Hill sees homosexual orientation as a by-product of the fall and the effect it had on all of creation. Thus, Hill, in light of his understanding of Scripture and the beliefs of Christian tradition, believes that acting on his orientation and fulfilling his desires is still a sin.
I can understand where Hill is coming from even though I disagree with his understanding of sexual orientation and it is important for anyone reading this book to enter into the narrative of Hill’s book with an understanding of where Hill is coming from. To write off Hill because of disagreements with his conclusions would be a serious mistake because you would miss out on a powerful story of struggle with identity, desire, and faithfulness.
Let me say that within the framework of Hill’s intention for writing the book (to offer hope to other homosexual Christians who hold the same understanding of sexual orientation and God’s desire) he has succeeded. I can only imagine that those who find themselves in similar faith communities and theological frameworks will find in Hill a kindred spirit who helps them with their identity and gives them a kindred spirit on their journey.
But I think Hill would be selling himself short if he thinks this is the only audience that benefits from his story. I found that this book offers immense value to the Body of Christ because it deals in such powerful ways with the struggle of “human desire” and “faithfulness.” While I may disagree with Hill’s understanding of acting on his homosexual orientation as a sinful “human desire,” I cannot but realize through entering into his struggle to see the benefit to all of us as Christians and our sinful human desires and their challenges to our living a faithful life.
Hill writes on page 68:
And this means that our pain–the pain of having our deeply ingrained inclinations and desires blocked and confronted by God’s demand for purity in the gospel–far from being a sign of our failure to live the life God wants, may actually be the mark of our faithfulness. We groan in frustration because of our fidelity to the gospel’s call. And though we may miss out in the short run on lives of personal fulfillment and sexual satisfaction, in the long run the cruelest thing that God could do would be to leave us alone with our desires, to spare us the affliction of his refining care.
What Hill is wrestling with in terms of his sexual identity and the understanding of that identity through his faith is something that I believe all of us deep inside wrestle with. At the core of this understanding is a belief that our desires can often be damaging to the life God would want us lead. While Hill struggles with his sexual orientation and the desires that come from that, undergirding this is the truth and reality that everyone of us struggles with misdirected desires. Desires as ends in themselves instead of desires directed to move us closer to God.
At the heart of it Hill has written an excellent book on faithfulness and what it means for each of us to struggle with that “thorn in our flesh.” If you begin to read Hill with an open mind to see your own struggles with sinful desires and its relationship to faithfulness you will come away with a rich depth of the messiness of faithfulness and the struggle to truly desire God.
Hill accomplishes the goal he set out in writing the book but he accomplished so much more by giving all of us a story we can relate to and a story we can see ourselves in. Just as Henri Nouwen and Gerard Hopkins allowed Hill to identify his own struggles with their stories, Hill’s writing and story allow us to identify our own struggles with his story.