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You wouldn't notice

Emily Robertson | 16 Feb 2016

You wouldn't notice unless you were looking for it. But sometimes it's the little things that point to something much bigger. And I notice, because I'm watching. I notice how every year the arch of my foot gets a little higher. The muscle between my thumb and forefinger gets a little smaller, and weaker. I notice that the lower part of my calf disappears a fraction more, as bit by bit my muscle dies and disappears.

I'm 33 and my hand trembles when I reach for a cup of tea. I fumble doing up buttons. My 4 year old runs to me with her arms outstretched, carrying a doll that needs dressing and I pause for a moment, wondering if I will silently celebrate my ability, or whether my weak fingers will disappoint me all over again.

My. fingers. won't. work. I. can't. control. the. movement.

Jars of jam and bottles that once so easily succumbed to a slight twist of my wrist now remain unresponsive in my hands. I grasp for a purchase but my fingers lock in stubborn refusal against me. I drop dishes and I can't work out how they escaped my fingers.

And I'm scared.

Because sometimes when an elderly person queues in front of me fumbling for their change, and their fingers lock in rebellion, I notice the twisted swollen joints that were once so supple, and their quiet resignation. And I look down at my own hands questioning their premature decline, their spidery form, and their slowness to respond to the most reasonable of requests.

I knew this was ahead when the doctors confirmed what I already knew to be true. But then Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) only whispered to me; refusing to give me speed over the piano, withdrawing strength at in-opportune times. But at the time I seemed only to gain—extra time in exams, a new computer. Surely it was me that was winning as I enjoyed all benefits of a neurological condition that wasn't yet making its presence felt?

But now... now I'm losing. I hear it as its voice grows louder, stronger, more persistent. Some days it's deafening and I retreat to the safety of medication that numbs the painful presence of nerves moving up and nerves moving down. For others nerves are fluid, silent, obedient: They move unnoticed. But as for me, and mine—they shout in protest at their labour.

Several nights past as I lay in a state of wakeful sleep, I felt the familiar dull ache creep in—but this time in my hands. An ache so at home in my legs and my spine—but an ache that hadn't, until that moment, bravely forayed beyond the base of my spine—was now in my hands.

And so it grows.

And as it grows I consider the path that it will take, the havoc it might wreak, and the weakness that I will be left with. It seems to hold the power and I only the weakness. It seems to be the victor and I only the victim.

But surely this isn't the case?

As time has passed I have noticed that one of the qualities of pain is that it insists upon being attended to: I cannot deny its presence. It shouts for attention. It demands to be acknowledged and responded to.

And while I would willingly drown its voice, it is speaking that which I must hear. It speaks of everything that is wrong. And it forces to the surface everything that I would like to hide: my weakness, my brokenness, my desire for strength and control. It makes me aware of my impatience, my propensity towards melancholy and frustration, and it reminds me that life shouldn't be this way. Because it shouldn't.

"Pain is unmasked, unmistakable evil. Every man knows that something is wrong when he is being hurt." (C.S. Lewis)

C.S. Lewis writes in The Problem of Pain:

“The human spirit will not even begin to try to surrender self-will as long as all seems to be well with it. Now error and sin both have this property, that the deeper they are the less their victim suspects their existence; they are masked evil. Pain is unmasked, unmistakable evil; every man knows that something is wrong when he is being hurt."

And so in the pain I am unmasked. And there perhaps lies the purpose...

My body is speaking of all that is wrong with the world and in my weakness I am reminded of it. So in the pain, and the fear, I can do nothing but run to the One who made me; who knitted me together in my mother's womb; who saw me and knew me before the creation of the world (Psalm 139 v 13; Ephesians 1 v 4). I run to the One who would have me glorify his name in ALL things—even this.

Because only in his arms do I have strength.

And while the future seems uncertain, my soul testifies that it is not, because I belong to the One who promises me all.

While the future seems uncertain, my soul testifies that it is not, because I belong to the One who promises me all.

And while the platitude "It'll be alright in the end" seems hollow, it gives me strength. While things are not alright now—it is not yet the end.

"‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.'” (Revelation 21 v 4)


Come, Lord Jesus.

Emily Robertson

Emily specialises in email marketing at TGBC, where she works on product launches, promotions, and brand campaigns. Emily lives in Chessington, South West London, with her husband Dave, and their 2 lively daughters. Emily studied English Literature at Cambridge University before joining TGBC marketing team.

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