In the wake of the recent SCOTUS decision, the angst and suffering of a particular group of people can easily be forgotten, drowned out by the loud, politically charged, ideological voices that are getting the majority of the airtime. While this is certainly an important event, and while I feel a great tragedy has been foisted upon the American people, my heart is actually aching for a group of people for whom Obergefell v. Hodges changed nothing about their day-to-day life: Christian brothers and sisters who love the Gospel, believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God, but who hate that they struggle with same sex attraction. They flee to Christ daily for forgiveness of sin and strength to remain faithful to him as they suffer an unrelenting temptation.
Wesley Hill’s book Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality (Zondervan, 2010) is a touching memoir and commentary on life as a Christian struggling with same sex attraction. Hill uses a number of terms to describe his experience – “Gay Christian,” “homosexual Christian,” “A Christian who experiences homosexual desires” – but he makes clear that his identity is first and foremost as a Christian. In the final resurrection, his homosexuality will finally be gone, but his incorporation into the body of Christ will remain. (See pgs. 21-22 for his section on nomenclature. Note too Sam Allberry’s excellent discussion of terminology.)
The battle to place love of Christ above love of his sinful and broken sexual desires is a hard one and Hill honestly shares the challenges and loneliness he feels as he walks the path of celibate faithfulness. His is a journey of intense cross-bearing and he feels the cost of discipleship in vivid and painful ways that many of us cannot relate to. (Hill does remind us, however, that there are many in our midst who have heterosexual attraction, have desperately wanted to marry, yet have been unable to do so for any number of reasons. They too share some of the same loneliness, impure thoughts, and temptation toward sexual immorality felt by Christians with same sex attraction. See his discussion on pgs. 71-75.)
I found this particular passage of Washed and Waiting clever and quite moving:
There was a time in my struggle with homosexuality when I felt that the world was caving in on me. I had been living in Minneapolis for only a few months, and I felt burdened – physically so, at times – by loneliness, confusion, and fear. During a brief visit back to Wheaton, Illinois, where I had graduated from college, I arranged to meet with my good friend Chris, and on a cold winter afternoon, I told him how I was feeling and asked for his help.
Out of all the things Chris said to me in response that day, one sticks out. With compassion in his voice, he said: “Origin, the great Christian theologian of the early church, believed that our souls existed with God before we were born. What if he were right? I don’t believe he was, but imagine for a moment if he were. Imagine yourself standing in the presence of God, looking down from heaven on the earthly life you’re about to be born into, and God says to you, ‘Wes, I’m going to send you into the world for sixty or seventy or eighty years. It will be hard. In fact, it will be more painful and confusing and distressing than you can now imagine. You will have a thorn in your flesh, a homosexual orientation that is the result of your entering a world that sin and death have broken, and you may wrestle with it all your life. But I will be with you. I will be watching every step you take, guiding you by my Spirit, supplying you with grace sufficient for each day. And at the end of your journey, you will see my face again, and the joy we share then will be born out of the agonies you faithfully endured by the power I gave you. And no one will take that joy – that solid resurrection joy, which, if you experienced it now, would crush you with its weight – away from you.’
“Wesley,” Chris said, looking me in the eye, “wouldn’t you say yes to the journey if you had had that conversation with God?” I nodded, and Chris’s [sic. – voice?] grew stronger, his eyes flashing deep care and concern, “But you have had it in a sense. God is the author of your story. He is watching, supplying you with his Spirit moment by moment. And he will raise your body from the dead to live with him and all the great company of the redeemed forever. And the joy you will have in that moment will be yours for all eternity. Can you endure knowing that? Can you keep walking the lonely road if you remember he’s looking on and delights to help you persevere?”
Your struggle isn’t a mindless, unobserved string of random disappointments, I heard Chris say that day. And faithfulness is never a gamble. It will be worth it. The joy then will be worth the struggle now. In the end, I think that is how I am learning to live faithfully as a homosexual Christian.
Washed and Waiting, pgs. 77-79. Bold emphasis added.
R. Andrew Compton
Christ Reformed Church (URCNA)