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Columnists

Keeping quiet

Jude Simpson

SimpsonIf I'm to be a proper mother, I have to get more creative about guilt. A get-together with other mums nearly always equals a mass confession - often with a hint of competition.  'I'm such a bad mother' goes the refrain, followed by any or all of:  'I put my baby to sleep when he was too tired' / 'I put my baby to sleep when he wasn't tired enough' / 'I used my husband's favourite tie as a nappy wipe...' / 'I dropped my baby's lights-and-music rhinoceros down the loo, and then flushed - on purpose!'

A gaggle of Christian mothers adds to - and trumps - these parental flagellations with the cardinal Christian mother's sin - that she can't remember the last time she had a 'really good' quiet time. She may have the happiest, healthiest children alive.  She may have got six kids to school without forgetting their lunches, homework books or ocelot outfits for dress-as-an-endangered species day. No matter.  She hasn't had a quiet time. She's a BAD MOTHER!

Now I'm the last person to knock quiet times, and I've had a few really good ones in my day. The best have involved holy shoulder-shivers, hyper-real visions of Jesus rock-climbing in a waterfall, and sudden discoveries of life-changing verses buried deep in the difficult second chapter of a minor prophet.  

But God save me from becoming a mother who overlooks the sacrificial nature of her everyday life and focuses on the lack of this at-best semi-biblical daily holy moment.  

God says, when you feed the hungry and clothe the naked, you do it for me. On a messy day, I can re-clothe the naked about seven times between lunch and bed. So how come Christian mums can't get together and say, 'Isn't it a blessing having children - it allows us to live a life of constant spiritual service'?  

I mean, does Fran have the same attitude to her surgeon husband when he comes home? 'What did you do today darling?' 'Well, I saved someone's sight, removed four cataracts and pioneered a new laser technology to halt age-related degeneration.' 'That's all very well, but did you have a Really Good Quiet Time?'  

There is rarely a moment when I'm clothing my naked baby that my mind doesn't boggle at the wondrous creation before me, drawing from me spontaneous praise to the creator God. But that's not a quiet time. Apparently. It's not nearly inactive enough.  

Mary, of course, 'pondered all these things in her heart'. We have an image of her sitting still and demure in a corner for this pondering, hands folded in her blue-draped lap. But who's to say she didn't do it while changing Jesus' nappy? To be confronted by the Messiah's pink and wrinkly babytackle, with the wise men's pronouncements of kingship and saviourhood still ringing in your ears - what better moment for a revelation of the crazy, nonsensical, wondrous Father God?

Jude Simpson