Luther on diapers

June 25th, 2009 Post by

I was writing a column about vocation the other day and came across this amazing quote from Luther in his Estate of Marriage:

Now observe that when that clever harlot, our natural reason (which the pagans followed in trying to be most clever), takes a look at married life, she 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, and on top of that care for my wife, provide for her, labour at my trade, take care of this and take care of that, do this and do that, endure this and endure that, and whatever else of bitterness and drudgery married life involves? What, should I make such a prisoner of myself? 0 you poor, wretched fellow, have you taken a wife? Fie, fie upon such wretchedness and bitterness! It is better to remain free and lead a peaceful. carefree life; I will become a priest or a nun and compel my children to do likewise.”

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, “0 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? 0 how gladly will I do so, though the duties should be even more insignificant and despised. Neither frost nor heat, neither drudgery nor labour, will distress or dissuade me, for I am certain that it is thus pleasing in thy sight.”

What I find so amazing about this quote is how you would never think it was written in medieval times. I also find it fascinating that he engages this issue of whether all of this drudgery is women’s work or not.

While I definitely do much of that work in our house, my husband has changed more diapers than any other man I know. And he has never complained about any of that.

Anyway, as I’m still only six weeks out from giving birth, it’s so nice to think of the lost sleep and the diapers and the feedings and what not as a gift from God. Thinking vocationally definitely helps the attitude!

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  1. Larry
    June 26th, 2009 at 07:14 | #1

    Very good! I needed that myself. As a husband and father of three presently the drudgery of all Luther mentioned above has gotten to me more or less at various times and you ask yourself (reason as Luther puts it) those very things. And you hate to hear yourself speaking like that, seeing your ugly sinful nature in reality and not theory.

    I think “drudgery”, or what we assess as drudgery, tempts us more than anything, because its incessant in its nature rather than a fleeting temptation.

    This was really encouraging, though, to hear afresh these high treasured callings that appear very low and as drudgery.


  2. Jeremy Loesch
    June 26th, 2009 at 12:23 | #2

    Awesome comments Mollie. It made this diaper-changing dad happy to be reminded of what the good Doctor said. Parenting is not drudgery, and when I’m in the middle of ‘work’ taking a break to change a diaper or read a book with my boys is a good cure for writer’s block.

    And I feel a certain kinship with Dr. Luther because I bet he used the same kind of diapers on his kids as we do on ours- cloth! Give it a try Mollie.

  3. Rev. Roger Sterle
    June 26th, 2009 at 12:53 | #3


    It seemed that when both our chidlren were in the diaper stage, I always received those which were filled with all that brown like stuff that comes from the body. My lovely wife, usually had those which just had a little bit of a yellow stain. Not that she never changed any brown diapers, but I firmly believe that the children deliberatly waited for Dad’s turn!!! :-)

  4. June 26th, 2009 at 13:24 | #4

    This is exactly why “clever pagans” like the Shakers are no longer extant. They never procreated! History will show that the aforementioned ideology billed as “logical” is, in fact, untenable.

    I will have to learn to use smaller words when my first little one is born in November.

  5. Matt Phillips
    June 26th, 2009 at 21:28 | #5

    Notice that Luther wrote the Estate of Marriage before his own marriage. This was a revolutionary document. He also spoke frankly about the God’s ordinance (Werk) “Be fruitful and multiply.”

  6. Alex
    June 27th, 2009 at 08:01 | #6

    Indeed. We’re at five weeks now and I’m groggy from another broken night of sleep. But the diapers and the poopy baby are also a gift from God.

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