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Columnists

Nappy dresser

Jude Simpson

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I have said it before and I shall say it again: Bringing up children is not something we engage in while waiting to do something more spiritual.

A Mum at church recently described her life as, 'Oh you know, nappy changing, wiping up sick, waiting for the day when I can have a spiritual life again…'

I spent the next 20 minutes trying - perhaps futilely - to persuade her that nappy changing is a spiritual exercise.

I'm serious. You only have to look at Jesus and his foot-washing to know that to clean another human being is extraordinarily meaningful, holy and humble. Nappy changing is focusing on someone else's needs. It brings no reward, and even when you've done it perfectly, you have to do it again a couple of hours later - and every few hours after that for about 2½-3 years per child. Not only is there no recognition or gratitude at the time, but the recipient will never even remember you doing it.

Other Mothers may occasionally compliment you on your discipline, your children's manners or your choice of children's clothes. No-one says, 'You know what you do really well - you wipe all the poo off his backside! Every time!' Nappy changing is not done to public acclaim (which is pretty crazy, considering you can win prizes for rolling cheese down a hill). It is not measured or recorded. It brings no medals, money or knighthood. It is a tiny, private, intimate, dirty, clean, loving ritual. And I'd bet my, er, bottom dollar that the way nappies are changed in infancy affects our understanding of love way on into adulthood.

Many other things in life are more spiritual than we care to remind ourselves, because they enable us to identify with the Servant King's earthly brokenness. Experiencing loneliness. Caring for older or less able people. Eating less. Cleaning the house. Putting one's wife's socks on for her because she's too pregnant (again) to bend down and do it herself…

If this isn't obvious, acquaint yourself further with the life of Mother Theresa. I've never read more stories about maggots (cleaning them out of open wounds, that is) than when immersed in the book about her, Love Until It Hurts.

I did think my spirituality was going to be tested in the direction of the Mother Theresa mark when I received an email from the nursery last week. It was simply entitled 'worms'. Thankfully none of my little ones were afflicted, but suffice to say I've never had a more energetic and passionate two hours with the Hubster than when scrubbing the house from top to bottom at the very thought of the possibility of such a thing…

We tend to interpret spirituality as numinous, rising above the grubby neediness of the bodily plane. Nonsense. To care for each other's bodies can lead to a fuller appreciation of the extraordinary, spiritual God.

Of course, if you ever feel the need to engage more in spiritual exercises, do drop round... I'd hate to keep the privilege all to myself…