by Shane Metzger
As I think over my experience with Matthew and his life, there are a few things that resonate. He had very limited use of his body in this life, but what he could control he used to spread love and joy.
I first met Matthew’s parents, Andy and Coby, over ten years ago when I gave them a tour of David’s House. As I presented the ministry to the Mast family, they presented their son to me. I remember Andy explaining to me how his son had suffered a brain injury as the result of a near-fatal drowning incident. As a parent of two young children, my heart ached to hear of a child suffering. And to think of a lifetime affected by the injury was incredibly sad.
What surprised me, though, was that Andy spoke of his son not in sad terms or with any disappointment in how his son had turned out. He didn’t seem frustrated with his son’s limitations, nor did he appear to be wrestling with questions like, “How did God allow this to happen?” Instead, he made a resolute statement that his son has been and is nothing but a blessing. I struggled to understand how he could make such a claim, especially after hearing how Andy and Coby had poured countless hours of love and care into their son. To think of a body and mind being so severely damaged and yet being a blessing to his family didn’t make sense to me.
There was no way for me to understand what Andy said until I met Matthew. At first, Matthew’s appearance was shocking to see. His frail body was out of shape and appeared to be in discomfort. His face often gave evidence that he was struggling, worried or in pain. But when he looked you in the eye, he would share the biggest, most warm and kind smile imaginable. Somehow, he would directly connect with you and share his excitement and joy.
For the time that I knew Matthew, he spread love and joy. He used the abilities he had to make the world around him a better place.
Though I’ve met others in a similar situation to Matthew, there was something extra special about him.
I suspect that Matthew was a reflection of what he had seen and received throughout his lifetime. Throughout his life, he was surround by people that showed love, spoke tenderly, gave compassionate touch and looked on with caring eyes. Being showered with love is what developed him into a person that knew how to love in return.
I wonder if he would have been molded and shaped into a completely different being had his life been filled will harsh voices, rough movements, aggressive care and neglect. It’s agonizing to consider the possibility of a person as helpless as he trapped in such surroundings.
I think that Matthew shared what he had first received.
1 John 4:19 tells us that we love because God first loved us. I believe this powerful statement can be made in application to Matthew’s time on earth. He was loved first and he, in turn, mirrored that love to others. Joy was shared with him and he therefore shared joy. Matthew used what he had to make an impact on the world—maybe even despite how he was feeling. Was he in pain? Was he uncomfortable? He would still share a big smile as if to comfort those looking on. It was as though he was asking us not to worry or fret for him.
Matthew has left this earth, but I’m left with a mental picture of him now standing tall with broad shoulders, a confident chin and warm, kind eyes. I see him walking with long strides, carried by legs with strong muscles. I envision him being rejoined with family members that have gone on before him to a place in God’s presence where there is fullness of joy forevermore.
If Matthew could speak to us now, I can image him saying, “Thank you, mom and dad, for loving me. You’ve been an extension of God’s love to me while I was with you on earth. It was from you that I was first shown his love, and that’s what I therefore knew to give to others. Thank you to my many family members and friends for loving and supporting me and my parents. Thank you, church, for caring for me and my family and for all your prayer and support. Thank you to Ruth and the staff at David’s House for doing your very best to care for me.”
“Please don’t reflect on my life as poor or wretched. Don’t focus on my limitations or on what I lost, but instead remember my life. Remember the things that I was able to do. I made a difference in your life with the little I had to give. Now, go and do the same! Use what you have—all that you have—to share what you’ve been given. You have been given so many more abilities and opportunities than I had. Change the world around you for good and for God’s glory.”
Of course, I can only guess what Matthew looks like in a redeemed state and what he would say if he could speak to us now. However, I do know that he has had a profound impact on many of our lives that will continue on—even in his absence.
Matthew will be missed. To God be the glory for a life well lived!
Shane Metzger is the Director of Operations for David’s House Ministries.
Read more about Shane here.