Friday, November 1, 2013

The Dave Test by Frederick W. Schmidt

Seven years ago Frederick's brother Dave, a gifted hand surgeon, got a brain tumor in the prime of life. He went from 120 surgeries a month to zero. Dave, a Christian, was frustrated with what other Christians told him. Their words were useless platitudes. They didn't pass the “Dave test.”

The Dave Test,” Frederick writes, “is a set of ten questions you can ask yourself when life sucks or before you talk to someone whose life is in the same sort of place.” (6) These questions will help us stay honest about life, present with our friends, and in touch with God. They will keep us from saying hurtful things or using “stained-glass” language. We'll be less likely to defend wrong ideas about God or look for our own comfort at the expense of others. (7)

One question deals with being honest about just how hard and ugly life can be. Another deals with our views of God and how to find a vision of God we can hold onto, One who suffers alongside us. He wants us to question our churchy, stained-glass (and useless) words and asks us to use the language of reality. He asks if we can admit that some things will never get better – we're mortal. He confronts our magical thinking. He brings us up short on fooling ourselves, blowing smoke, failing to confront the truth. He suggests steps we can take to say something that helps the sufferer. He explores how we can grieve with another. He asks if we can walk in the transparency of our own wounded self. And finally, how to be a friend, be available, be vulnerable.

He does a great job of analyzing why we say those useless, “stained-glass” kinds of things. We wish we had some control. We so want life to make sense. Sometimes it just does not. Like the psalmist, we wonder why the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper. Sometimes is just is. He has a helpful discussion on the various views of God's sovereignty and control.

Frederick has certainly given me a great deal of food for thought as to how I relate to those suffering. This is a very honest and penetrating book. It's not fluff. It deals with a hard subject of great importance.

Some Christians will find this book offensive, I am sure. There is “language.” There is vulgarity. So be warned. Sometimes the reality of suffering isn't neat and tidy and surrounded by stained-glass language. I didn't read anything I haven't heard people say in the midst of pain, so I understood why it was included.

Frederick W. Schmidt holds the Rueben P. Job Chair in Spiritual Formation and directs the Rueben P. Job Institute for Spiritual Formation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois. He is an Episcopal priest, spiritual director, and retreat leader. He has written numerous articles and seven previous books. He and his wife life in Chicago.

Abingdon Press, 176 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the author for the purpose of this review.
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