I have often sent letters in the past to update you on how our son Matthew is doing and to ask for your prayers. It has been nearly two years since Matthew was diagnosed as autistic. At that time, the pediatric neurologist told us to find a speech therapist and that maybe our son would learn to talk. In the intervening time, a lot has happened. You all have prayed many times for Matthew. And so, I need to let you know how God has answered those prayers.
Six months ago, Matthew had his regular appointment with an occupational therapist, and afterwards we discussed his condition. I explained to her that Matthew had begun asking "why" and "how" questions. She told me that most high-functioning autistic children never get to the point where they understand nonconcrete relationships.
Then we discussed all aspects of Matthew's progress. She said that Matthew no longer needed occupational therapy. He had apparently undergone a complete change in his neurological system. He processes things completely differently now. In her opinion, Matthew can no longer be classified as autistic, but rather as having autistic tendencies. She thinks that as long as we continue to work with him, he will continue to improve. She talked about how everything has "gone right" for Matthew in terms of diet and treatment, and how he lives in an "enriched environment."
She really marveled at his improvement; in her twenty years of working with autistic children, she has never seen such a radical change. But she does not understand that it is the mercy of God and the prayers of the saints that the Lord has used to bring healing and to give us wisdom and perseverance in the midst of what has been a frustrating, exhausting, and mystifying experience. Calvin and I want to thank you wholeheartedly for your prayers and ask you to praise God with us.
This does not mean that Matthew is "cured." He will always have to follow the autism diet. Many things are much more difficult for him to do. (We are still working on potty training, but we do see some progress.) He still does not sleep as much as most four-year-olds, but he is sleeping much longer than the four hours he used to sleep, and occasionally he even sleeps through the night. He still has communication problems, but he is learning and his stuttering is nearly gone.
We have even begun to understand his sufferings, as he tells us about the buzzing in his ears and how his head is sometimes "wild." He can even pray now, and he petitions his Creator that he "wouldn't cry so much." His thoughts are clearer, and he asks questions about God.
Still, we don't know what his future holds. He may regress. He has "bad days," and is very uncomfortable in unfamiliar surroundings. Often we must patiently wait for him to find the words to express himself. So please remember us in your prayers-that Matt will continue to improve, and that God will continue to strengthen us and make us wise.
I think I would diminish God's glory if I did not mention how this has affected the rest of the family. This has been a difficult time for all of us. The three older children have learned patience, selflessness, and how to sleep with someone screaming for hours on end. Both Cal and I have discovered that we must have a readily available sense of humor, and, more importantly, that we must hold less tightly to this world because we are strangers and aliens in it. We have learned more fully to fix our eyes on Christ crucified, our high priest, who intercedes for us, and on that celestial city that will be our home. The Lord has taught us that suffering does indeed produce perseverance, and perseverance character, and character hope, and that hope does not disappoint.
I could go on, but I won't. I just want to share Matthew's favorite Bible verse with you. As a family, we memorize Bible passages for our morning devotions. Every morning, Matt asks for his favorite passage. Although he cannot yet repeat the verse, I think he really does understand what it means. We recite it for him, and he chimes in where he can. I find that it convicts me and gives me hope. The passage is 2 Corinthians 4:16-18:
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
This was originally a letter to friends and family, dated January 20. Mrs. Keller, the wife of Pastor Calvin Keller (Westminster OPC, Hamden, Conn.), has updated it for New Horizons. Reprinted from New Horizons, October 2000.