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The Faithfulness of Regular Care

Attending to the rhythms of our own survival
by Lyndsey Medford | July 21, 2022

This is the third summer of the 6 A.M. walk.

I’m a self-professed night owl and a self-employed writer. 6 A.M walks are not my natural state.

But I am also a chronically and mentally ill person, and summer is my most dreaded time of the year. My dog and I need a practice of daily movement. And I’ve discovered the single most important remedy for my winter and summer Seasonal Affective Disorder is to find a way—any way—to spend time outdoors regularly.

In Charleston, South Carolina, in July and August, the 6 A.M. walk is that way.

Every groggy pre-sunrise morning, though, for a second or two I face a choice. I can make up legitimate-enough reasons why I have to go back to sleep. If I skip the walk, no one will know or care. Or, more accurately, only I will know or care. Only I will struggle with concentration and motivation throughout the day. Only I will suffer the joint pain and fatigue that creep up on me without regular movement. And if I string together enough days without that walk, only I will have any idea that the increased likelihood I’ll end up suffering and immobile on the couch bore any relation to the choices I made at 6 A.M.

Disability and care

As a chronically ill and disabled person, I’ve become someone who requires immense amounts of care. Without enough sleep, a finicky diet, prescription medications, some exercise (but not too much), time outdoors and the support and sacrifice of a community of people, inflammation can overtake my body’s systems and turn my daily life into a series of impossibilities. Even with all those supports, these flares sometimes happen anyway.

Care is not my strong suit, the much-hyped “self-care” even less so. Yet my body, my dog and my houseplants, my chronically ill friends, and my favorite pastors and activists have taught me how profound and important this daily, sometimes boring and drudging work of routine really is. 

We are quick to applaud those who respond to disasters and call them “heroes,” and they are. But we overlook and even despise those whose regular care and maintenance—of bodies or buildings or churches or communities—prevent disasters or slowly, imperceptibly grow beautiful things. Likewise, we sometimes find it easy to respond to an emergency with casseroles and cards, but struggle to continue supporting our friends whose suffering doesn’t come stamped with an end date.

The fruit of the Spirit

Over the years of learning to care for my fragile body and mind, I’ve rarely been motivated by the beloved capitalist god of just trying to be more “disciplined.” Not only does “discipline” feel rigid and vaguely shaming, it also gestures toward a false promise that if I do everything right, I can earn a guarantee of good health. (Well-meaning people in my past have made similar false promises about the practice of spiritual disciplines.)

What I think better describes these routines of care is one of the fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians: the practice of faithfulness. It is not my job to control the outcomes; it’s my job to show up, over and over. 

This world is full of people whose faithfulness is overlooked or even demeaned; but in reality, their work is creative and radically loving. Retelling the same story over and over to the same elder with dementia is re-creating something new for them. Washing and sanitizing the bottles again is an act of profound contribution to someone else’s growth. The person who dusts the pew; the person who makes the bulletin; the person who greets all; they co-create a community of worship. And those of us whose vocation many days is simply to attend to the rhythms of our own survival are stewarding precious gifts.

In each of these activities, we share with each other the image of a God who is unfailingly faithful—not only to rescue us from disaster, but also to quietly, daily uphold the universe, to repeat the rhythms and patterns of life, and as promised so very many times, to simply be with us. 

This Disability Pride month, I find myself in awe of the creativity, care, and courage with which disabled people make lives for ourselves despite the unnecessary obstacles placed in our way. We discover and share new ways of living that the world deeply longs for. We care for ourselves, and especially for each other, steadfastly and so often invisibly—and isn’t this also the way we eventually discover God working? In secret, over time, unspectacularly, but without fail?

In a world devoted to quick fixes and the next big thing, it’s easy to accept the lie that what we do at 6 A.M. doesn’t matter. But in the Kingdom of God, the hidden, repetitive work of faithfulness is honored—if only because this is work God is doing by our side.

Your turn: Honor faithfulness

Send a “thank you” note or gift to someone who’s quietly, constantly there for you, for a family member, or for your church. Ask the Holy Spirit if there is a relationship you are being called to show up to with faithfulness.

About the Author

Lyndsey Medford

Lyndsey Medford is a writer and speaker living with a rare autoimmune disorder in the American South. She is the author of My Body and Other Crumbling Empires: Lessons for Healing in a World That Is Sick, now available for pre-order. When she’s not writing, she’s on her porch with friends or hiking with her husband and her rescue dog. Lyndsey writes at www.instagram.com/lyndseymedford and to her email list via www.lyndseymedford.com.

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