In high school, I read a book called A Severe Mercy. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it. It’s a book about Sheldon and his wife Davy Vanauken. It recounts how they loved each other, and eventually how they came to know Christ. In it, Sheldon writes about the steps that his wife and he took in order to protect and grow their relationship. They were so intentional about having a close and impenetrable relationship that they took steps most of us would never dream of. They read the books that each other had enjoyed as children. They left everything in order to spend months with each other on a boat. They sought to give up their claims to “my” for the sake of “our.”
In all of this, they sought to treat each other with courtesy. Their test for this was getting a glass of water for each other in the middle of the night. This may not sound like much, but it was a barometer of their respect for one another. The one who was asked to get the glass would so desire to honor the other person that they would set aside the inconvenience of waking up and leaving bed in order to get it. The one who wanted the water would recognize the inconvenience that this caused and would therefore be reticent to ask, not wanting to burden the other person. It was a simple yet profound way to symbolize the respect and care that they wanted to be present in their marriage.
A glass of water. It’s a simple gesture and yet, as the Vanauken’s realized, it would come to mean so much. So often we are quick to promise grand gestures yet we don’t even do the simple things to honor those we love. We say that we would die for them, yet we don’t listen to their stories. We promise that we would protect them, but we tell thoughtless jokes at their expense. We state that we’d give up everything for them, but insist on always choosing the restaurant. Simple things? Yes. So is a glass of water. But they can come to mean so much more.
It’s a wonderful thing to partake in some grand gesture for the sake of the one that you love. To risk your life, to go the distance, to sacrifice all. But it’s perhaps even more impressive to regularly and intentionally do the small things that show your honor, love and respect. It’s the simple things, after all, that fills most of our days. And it’s the simple things that regularly communicate your love for the other person. Like getting a glass of water for them, even in the middle of the night.