On a stormy February 13 evening several years ago, my husband asked me what I wanted for a Valentine’s gift.
Without hesitating, I replied, “A homemade card.”
I knew the request was simple and easy-the thoughtful gift to request.
“What do you want?” I asked. Facing a busy day and I secretly hoped he’d ask for a big, wet kiss that would melt him at the knees.
“I’d like a homemade red velvet cake,” he replied.
“Delivered to work?” I volunteered.
“That would be great!”
My mind began racing. How am I going to finish up all my projects, run errands and still find time to bake and deliver a cake? I’d never baked a red velvet cake, but I knew I couldn’t let him down.
The set the alarm early and began researching recipes for red velvet cake before the sun crested the horizon. By mid-morning, I slid the cake pans into the oven. A glance at the clock revealed everything was on track for a noon delivery.
Twenty minutes later my two nine-inch round cakes looked like rolling hills. I turned to icing to save me. With every brush stroke, the cake tore apart and slowly transformed into a pinkish glob of goo. Then the icing ran out.
I grabbed the cake, a butter knife and headed back to the grocery store where I found even more people like myself (okay, not quite like myself) running around buying last-minute Valentine’s gifts. I purchased another double-container of icing, and opted for a red-helium balloon and a card just in case the cake couldn’t be saved.
On the way to my husband’s office, the helium balloon began rubbing up and down on the side of my head creating static. As many times as I tried to bat it away, the balloon returned. For the safety of everyone on the road, I gave into its annoying presence.
I arrived at my husband’s workplace looking like I’d pressed my finger into an electric switch. With no time to lose, I iced the pink glob in the trunk of the car, hastily filled out a card with an endearing message using a pen I found underneath the car seat, and patted down my ridiculous looking hair. I took a deep breath, plastered on a smile, and walked into my husband’s office with gifts in hand.
Only he wasn’t there.
Happy stinkin’ Valentine’s Day. He was tied up in an unscheduled meeting for the afternoon. All I could think was, “Is he going to notice just how much icing is on this cake?”
Afraid he might not feel loved post-cake fiasco, I printed out heart-shaped love notes and placed them every stair between the entryway and our second floor so he would see them when he came home.
But he had to work late.
By the time he got home, we had experienced a power outage. Walking up the stairs, he couldn’t see a single note.
Meanwhile, despite the fresh tulips and cute store card my husband purchased, he kept apologizing to me because he hadn’t had time to fulfill my request for a homemade card.
We sat on the couch in the dark on Valentine’s Day and found out something new about each other: neither of us really cared a whole lot about the holiday. He purchased flowers and cards so I would feel loved and I became a crazed baker with frizzy hair to express my love. What we discovered that night is that both of us already felt thoroughly and sufficiently loved because of the way we treat each other and live life together the other 364 days of the year.
A few weeks post-Valentines fiasco, I began reflecting on how much loving God and receiving the love of God isn’t reserved for holidays like Easter or Christmas or Valentines.
To put it in Valentine’s terms, God isn’t looking for balloons, flowers, and a cake on special occasions for us to express our love to him. But he is looking for a more intimate and involved relationship where the gifts we offer to him-words of thanks, songs of praise, acts of service, expressions of kindness, bragging on him to others, and more-fill each and every day.
On this Valentines, may you remember that when it comes to loving God the greatest gift you can give God is yourself-not just today but each and every day.
–Margaret Feinberg is author of “Wonderstruck: Awaken to The Nearness of God.” She’s currently inviting people to read through the entire Bible during Lent with a free 40-day reading guide on her site.