Nothing to Celebrate: Question Nine of Ten

Taking The Dave Test during the Holiday

Question Eight: “Can I walk wounded?”

Introduction to the series

Much of the last year was thread through with considerable loss.  My brother, Dave, battled a fatal brain cancer for nearly eight years and he died this last January as the result of a fall that was due in large part to his disease.  He would have been 58 years old in October.

In reaction to Dave’s quest to find a durable faith and supportive friends, I wrote a book called The Dave Test, which was just released by Abingdon Press The book distills Dave’s quest into ten questions that any of us can ask ourselves, when we are in one of life’s hard places or when we are trying to support those we love.  Whether that hard place revolves around divorce, death, unemployment, abuse, illness, or some other misfortune, I hope that the questions I ask and the answers the book offers will help us all sit a bit more easily with life’s ragged edges.

Over ten weeks I plan to apply the questions in The Dave Test to our preparation for the holidays.  At this time of year for many there is — as the expression goes — “no cause for celebration.”  But I am convinced that there is reason for hope and I don’t believe that we need to navigate the holidays alone.  I hope that the book and this application of The Dave Test’s principles to the holidays will help ease the sense of isolation that is so much a part of life for many of us at this time of year.

This week’s Dave Test question: “Can I walk wounded?”

I ran into a telling, honest, and courageous article this week by Mary DeMuth.  Entitled, “Let’s talk about what happened on Downton Abbey,” DeMuth observes that she understands why Anna Bates remained silent after being raped in episode two of season 4.  A childhood victim of sexual abuse and violence, DeMuth has bravely written about the sexual violation that she suffered and it is that experience that makes it possible for her to understand the on-screen character’s struggle with shame and her silent response.

In her most recent article she writes that her own silence and the silence of those who have been abused made it difficult for her to find healing.  And, sadly, she reports that just as she began to make headway in confronting her past, it was becoming a Christian that reinforced that silence:

But then I succumbed to the underlying message that once I became a Christian, all was well. The old memories, the nightmares, the gut-lurching fears had been taken away, and a new life awaited me. Denial of the past became my holy act (so I thought).

It took the birth of her daughter and the better part of two decades to realize that silence —- including silence imposed by unrealistic expectations and magical assumptions about what happens in the lives of Christians — simply slows the healing process and isolates those who could help one another.  When she broke that silence, she not only found healing, but her work became the instrument of healing in the lives of others.

In other words, she learned how to “walk wounded.”

Not all silence is holy and, more often than not, the past cannot be changed.  There are times when the best thing we can do with the very real losses we have experienced is not to deny them, or paper over them, but use them in reaching out to those who have experienced the same kinds of loss.

During the long, quiet winter months that follow the frenzy of the holiday season may you:

  • Learn the power of a story told,
  • The hope born of wounding shared,
  • The strength of communities that tell the truth and confront the reality of loss,
  • And the healing that becomes possible in the moment that we own our losses.


For more on taking The Dave Test during the holidays:

Question One: “Can I say life sucks?”

Question Two: “Can I give up my broken gods?”

Question Three: “Can I avoid using stained-glass language?”

Question Four: “Can I admit that some things will never get better?”

Question Five: “Can I give up trading in magic and superstition?”

Question Six: “Can I stop blowing smoke?”

Question Seven: “Can I say something that helps?”

Question Eight: “Can I grieve with others?”

To read more about The Dave Test, or to order a copy:


(Click on the book to order)

About Frederick Schmidt

The Reverend Dr. Frederick W. Schmidt, Jr. holds the Rueben P. Job Chair in Spiritual Formation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL, and directs the Rueben Job Institute for Spiritual Formation. He is an Episcopal Priest, spiritual director, retreat facilitator, conference leader, writer, and consulting editor at Church Publishing in New York. He is the author of numerous published articles and reviews, as well as several books: A Still Small Voice: Women, Ordination and the Church (Syracuse University Press, 1998), The Changing Face of God (Morehouse, 2000), When Suffering Persists (Morehouse, 2001), in Italian translation: Sofferenza, All ricerca di una riposta (Torino: Claudiana, 2004), What God Wants for Your Life (Harper, 2005), Conversations with Scripture: Revelation (Morehouse, 2005), Conversations with Scripture: Luke (Morehouse, 2009), and The Dave Test (Abingdon, 2013). He and his wife, Natalie (who is also an Episcopal priest), live in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, with their Gordon Setter, Hilda of Whitby. They have four children and five grandchildren: Henry, Addie, Heidi, Sophie, and Drew, with a sixth on the way.