I welcomed Fred Schmidt’s new book, The Dave Test, into my library, but more importantly into my inner heart, because I found it to be a book that spoke the truth about life and death, even the small lives and deaths in between our birth date and date of death. Schmidt writes out of deep personal pain, but also out of deep conviction born of wrestling with the Holy One, prompted by the crucible of the grave illness and death of his younger brother.
A few months ago I read with gratitude Letty Cottin Pogrebin’s newest book How to Be A Friend to a Friend Who’s Sick (Public Affairs, New York) and found it brilliantly helpful and practical. However, Schmidt’s book speaks to my deeper longing as someone of faith who is aware of her process of aging, someone who sits with others in spiritual direction and ministry, and someone who is often tempted to look at the world with despair. By posing ten questions that faith communities had failed to answer or even address for his brother, he unsparingly explores those issues in our theologies that are so often treated cavalierly or superficially, or are ignored altogether. His truth-telling about our partial images of God, his critique of what he call “stained-glass language,” and his willingness to accept “walking wounded” as an appropriate gait for a person of faith are all expressions of Grace that give a spaciousness and freedom to any who are walking in or close to the valley of the shadow.
In addition to the nuanced, thoughtful and practical theology that Schmidt articulates, his love for his brother and for the God to whom he and his brother belong is the driving theme throughout the book. In the tradition of C.S. Lewis, Sheldon VanAuken, and Alan Paton, Schmidt has let Love be his teacher; we say in my tradition in the Confessions, “In life and in death we belong to God.” This book shows us one journey of that truth, of how that happens. This story also opens windows of hope and breath to any who are living with the baffling questions of ultimate meaning. I am recommending it to anyone I know who is doing so.
To read an excerpt from The Dave Test, visit the Patheos Book Club here.