Matt has lived a life of extremes that few people even survive. But he knows that God has been with him and had a hand on him all along.
When Matt was six years old and in the first grade, he was running across the parking lot after school as a station wagon was backing up. The car knocked him down and pinned him under its wheel. Matt says he can never forget the white dodge station wagon or the voice of his sister screaming at the driver, “YOU’RE ON MY BROTHER!” In the panic, the car completely rolled over him.
Police came and took him to the hospital where the doctors examined him. His eyes were red with broken blood vessels but X-rays revealed no broken bones. They said he checked out fine and so they sent him home. It was 1966 and long before imaging technology was invented.
Soon, Matt began having urinary problems. Doctors said he would outgrow it but that didn’t happen. For six years, he was given many different medications that did not help. Matt would pray at night with his brother in their bunk beds reciting the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be and their intercessions. He always asked for the problems to go away. God communicated to him that the problem was caused by the car accident, but nobody else was listening. After six years, a urologist asked him, “Were you ever punched really hard in the stomach?” “Well,” he laughed, “there was that time when a car ran over me…” Finally, at 13, they found a blockage and repaired it.
In his teen years, Matt struggled with obsessive-compulsive disorder. He found that when he drank alcohol, the anxious symptoms stopped. But by 16 years of age, he was ensnared in alcohol addiction.
For seven more years Matt drank until he came to a turning point. He felt disturbed after a ‘rough’ weekend in which he had awakened in a chair with no memory of what happened to him. Monday at work, he got up and turned toward a calendar on the wall when he felt two hands on his shoulders. He heard a voice say, “You’ll never forget this day for the rest of your life.” Matt turned around but there was no one there. It was February 6, 1984 and he was 23 years old.
Matt poured out all his alcohol and went to the doctor the next day. The doctor told him that his liver was scarred and gave him medication to help ease the DTs. That Friday, he was in a recovery program.
Recovery was not easy. Matt shared a table with seven people. Two of them died in the year, returning to alcohol. ‘That is not what I want to do!” Matt said. He reasoned, “I am battling a disease and the cure is to not drink – that is so binding, you don’t break it.” Matt continued his recovery continuing to surrender his life to God every day for 32 years.
“You can’t pull yourself out of quicksand,” Matt says. “The only way you can get out is if there is a loving God helping you.” After quitting drinking, Matt found his OCD coming back. He prayed for it to be removed and it was. “Like Jonah,” Matt says, “it took me to get swallowed by a whale and spat out on the shore to find my faith. It’s not fun or easy, but that’s what makes it credible.”
Matt has learned that God is with him even when things feel especially hard. One difficult year, his nephew committed suicide; his son had a devastating break-up with his girlfriend, and he moved further away from home. Yet that Thanksgiving at dinner, he stood at a table, holding his sister’s hand, praying. He realized, “I’m alive. I am here with my family and giving thanks.” He could see the good in his life and he could be grateful.
When I met Matt to talk to him, he was donating blood. “I’m doing it for God,” he says. But he knows he is helping someone else somewhere. His counselor once told him, “You’re going to have to help someone someday.” Indeed.
Matt has taught at an alternative school in Detroit working with young people who have disorders, or are victims of abuse. He is like a father to the students and sees the work as a ministry, employing his prayers, his words of counsel, his time and attention, and even materially, helping one girl who needed to buy a car.
A few years ago, Matt was walking his dogs and thinking about the years after his car accident. For four years in a row, he won the school raffle. He asked the Lord why, back then, he would so often win prizes and stuffed animals at drawings. He heard the Lord speak clearly, “I wanted you to feel better!”
Matt's favorite scripture verse is Psalm 91:
“Because he has set his love upon Me,
therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him on high, because he has known My name.
He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him,
And show him My salvation.”