Water in the Night

A_SEVERE_MERCYSoon after our marriage, Steve and I read Sheldon Vanauken’s A Severe Mercy. It’s a moving story of life and love, liberally infused with letters from C.S. Lewis. I hope you’ll read the book, but today I’d like to tell you about the most important lesson it taught me. That lesson is two-pronged:

            Love others far beyond yourself.

            Do your best to trust the people you love.

Sheldon and his wife, Davy, made this pledge to one another: “Whatever one of us asked the other to do – it was assumed the asker would weigh all the consequences – the other would do. Thus one might wake the other in the night and ask for a cup of water; and the other would peacefully (and sleepily) fetch it. We, in fact, defined courtesy as ‘a cup of water in the night’. And we considered it a very great courtesy to ask for the cup as well as to fetch it.”

Imagine what would happen if all requests between spouses (and, for that matter, friends) were handled in this manner! Were love and trust to prevail, there would be little room for discord. I try to ask of Steve only that which I have already weighed and considered best for him to do. And while I sometimes fail, it is my intention never to question his requests of me. In a perfect world, where the “cup of water in the night” principle reigns, each request one of us makes of the other is granted if at all possible.

Isn’t this just another challenge to love our neighbors as ourselves? Isn’t it what our Lord would do and would have us to do?

Tell me, can you also define courtesy as “a cup of water in the night”? Have you pledged such courtesy to your spouse or friend? I welcome your comments. Please tell me how love and trust are played out in your daily life. We can learn so much from one another!


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