So, when I came to the United States, I freely indulged at the fountain of a liberal arts education, and drank myself silly. I declared my academic love to the history department, even though I was a biology major.
Here, I was introduced to the nuns of the Middle Ages. They enthralled me. Life in the the convents and monasteries sounded most -- liberating. When so few women knew how to read, nuns wrote books. The ascetic life seemed so noble. Monks and nuns sacrificed much freedom and devoted their lives to prayer and spiritual disciplines. I thought if I had lived in the Middle Ages, it would be so cool to be a nun.
I have since grown out of that (weird) daydream. (thank goodness)
And then, I became a mom. The freedom that I was ready to sacrifice as a (Protestant) nun paled in comparison to the sacrifices of becoming a parent. I am not saying that the monastic life was easy, not at all, but at least monks and nuns got full nights of sleep, the time to be with one's own thoughts, the luxury of being in one's own mind, the freedom to come and go. As my friend Charisse said, she can be having "intense devotional thoughts" at one moment, and be upset by the sound of children fighting at the next.
Our worship is tangled up with the ordinary. Nuns and monks clothed the naked and fed the hungry as their acts of spiritual discipline. (Wait, that's what parents do.) We offer our lives as worship; we sing, we play, we eat, we drink, we wash, we comfort, we listen, we teach, we pray. Repeat. This is our service unto the Lord, even when my priestly garment is stained with Nutella, and the floor of the sanctuary may have a few Cheerios on it.
So, when Martin Luther wrote "intense devotional thoughts" about stenchy diapers, I try to pay attention. A monk turned family man, he knew what he was talking about:
[Natural reason] turns up her nose and says, "Alas, must I rock the baby, wash its diapers, make its bed, smell its stench, stay up nights with it, take care of it when it cries, heal its rashes and sores?"...
What then does Christian faith say to this? It opens its eyes, looks upon all these insignificant, distasteful, and despised duties in the Spirit, and is aware that they are all adorned with divine approval as with the costliest gold and jewels.
It says, O God, because I am certain that thou hast created me as a man and hast from my body begotten this child, I also know for a certainty that it meets with thy perfect pleasure. I confess to thee that I am not worthy to rock the little babe or wash its diapers, or to be entrusted with the care of the child and its mother. How is it that I, without any merit, have come to this distinction of being certain that I am serving thy creature and thy most precious will? O how gladly will I do so, though the duties should be even more insignificant and despised. Neither frost nor heat, neither drudgery nor labor, will distress or dissuade me, for I am certain that it is thus pleasing in thy sight. . . . God, with all his angels and creatures is smiling—not because the father is washing diapers, but because he is doing so in Christian faith.