This is a powerful, difficult, and important book. Powerful because it is so raw, biblical, and personal. Difficult because it engages with a myriad of myths and misunderstandings that prevail in our culture – both Christian and secular. Important because it speaks, out of one man’s personal experience, into one of the most divisive issues being discussed today. Wesley Hill, the author, is a committed Christian, a single male, and identifies as a celibate homosexual. In our over-sexualised, polarised culture, this makes him a radical voice – but I believe he has something very powerful to say.
At the outset, I want to make completely clear that if you read one book on the relationship of Christianity and Homosexuality this year, it should probably be this one. It is immensely powerful, poetically whimsically, utterly faithful, and heart-challenging. As I read this book, I was forced to confront my attitudes to people, my response to situations, and the ways in which I think and pray for those I love for whom this is their orientation or great struggle.
Hill writes “Washed and Waiting” as a voice of encouragement to Christians struggling with or thinking through the implications of their homosexuality. He is outlandishly honest about his own struggle, and yet hopeful about what God is teaching him in it. This is not a book about someone who has had an easy life but instead a wonderful story of Gods Grace to one redeemed sinner, being slowly sanctified. As ‘reflections’ go, this is one of the most beautifully Gospel focused ones I have read in a while. This gives it a power – a power that demands it be read by Christians who are not homosexuals themselves, because it is a book that echoes the depths of the Gospel, the Grace and Love of God.
This book moves through Orthodox Theology and spiritual poetry beautifully, but there were a couple of key points that I found particularly helpful. Firstly, Hill identifies the fulfilment of the desires that we humans have for other humans. All love, all desire, Hill writes, is but a glimpse of God’s Love, and his Desire for his children. Not to say that God is sexual, but rather the intensity of our human sexual desire pales in comparison to the love of God for his people. This prompts one of my favourite passages in the book;
“Nearly two thousand years ago, Good Friday gave way to Easter Sunday, and at the end of history, when Jesus appears, death will give way to resurrection on a cosmic scale and the old creation will be freed from its bondage to decay as the new is ushered in. On that day there will be no more loneliness. The wounds will be healed. I expect to stand with Henri Nouwen at the resurrection and marvel that neither of us is homosexual anymore, that we both – together with ever other homosexual Christian – are whole and complete in the fellowship of the redeemed, finally at home with the Father“.
The final part of this hints at one of the other powerful points that Hill makes, as he talks in detail about “the fellowship of the redeemed“. It is absolutely true that the Church has historically not done well – let alone been Christlike – in its past dealings with people of a homosexual orientation. But Hill believes that the Church is God’s plan for his people on earth. Echoing his own observation that “the love of God is better than any human love“, whilst recognising the continuing deeply-felt need for human relationships, Hill joyfully relates that “one of the most surprising discoveries I made… is that the New Testament views the church – rather than marriage – as the primary place where human love is best expressed and experienced.“. This is a radical observation, on the face of it, but it is ultimately true. Marriage itself is a picture of the Love of Christ for his Church. The place where true love happens.
The title of this book, “Washed and Waiting”, describes the state and plight of all Christians, homosexual and not. We are washed in the blood of Jesus – saved. But we are also waiting, waiting for the second coming, waiting for the completion of our sanctification and the coming together of Jesus the Bridegroom and his Bride, the Church. Hill writes from a place of hopeful process – this is a helpful and powerful book. I can’t really recommend it enough. I wish that both my more ‘homophobic’ Christian friends would read it, and those who call themselves Christian yet support or practice homosexuality. I hope that leaders and young Christians will read this book, for its powerful treatment of a contentious issue and its wonderful picture of God’s wild, saving and transforming Love. I’d thoroughly recommend this little book to you.