Valentine’s Day gifts are hard. The obvious gifts—chocolates and roses—feel so obligatory they’re almost thoughtless. More complicated ones—surprise vacations, rom-com-worthy memories—cost a fortune you don’t have.
And then there’s the guessing game. You want it to be a surprise, but not too much of a surprise. If it’s completely random, she’ll probably just be politely confused. But if it’s completely expected, well, that’s just boring.
There’s no real “one best gift” you can give on Valentine’s Day. Some women will want a diamond necklace. Some want a box of donuts. Some think Valentine’s Day is stupid and are hoping you don’t get them anything at all. But there is one gift that spans all personalities and relationships, a gift that will never fail to delight and impress, and whether you’re clueless about what you’re getting for your partner this Valentine’s Day or you’ve got it all planned out, you should still work this into your plan someway, somehow.
Yes, generosity. Not in the sense that you’re donating money to your spouse or like, pledging to her GoFundMe. But in the sense that on this Valentine’s Day, you’re going to be extravagant with all your resources: your time, your emotions, your mental energy and even your schedule.
In 2 Corinthians 9: 6-7, Paul writes “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
In the context of these verses, Paul was talking about finances, but this is a point that can be broadly applied. It’s human nature to “sow sparingly.” We feel like we have finite reserves of everything, so we divvy out our mental and emotional energy piecemeal, making sure to always save a little bit for later, in case we need it. By the time the end of the day rolls around, many of us feel a bit drained of the ability to be invested in anything much more challenging than Netflix or Xbox. The feeling, we sense, is that we’re running on empty.
This isn’t necessarily wrong. You can burn yourself out by giving too much of yourself at all times. But according to Paul, this is also a result of sowing sparingly. When we give only a little of ourselves here and there, we reap in equal portions. Give a little to a relationship, receive a little in return. And most of us learn to get by just like that: on a little.
But God loves a cheerful giver.
Being generous with your mental, emotional and spiritual resources can look like a lot of different things. It depends a lot on where you’re at in life. Maybe it means planning a long date, with multiple stops and lots of time for lengthy conversation. Maybe it means a letter (not just a card!) in which you write what’s really on your heart. Maybe it’s picking up a few extra tasks around the house, taking on the emotional labor of finding a sitter for the kids, booking the travel, doing the laundry and making sure the cat gets fed. Whatever it is, you’re going above and beyond what you usually do—giving more than you usually think you’re able to.
Is it hard? Of course it is, especially if you’re not used to it. It’ll take some getting used to and, yes, it might even be a little awkward. Power through those feelings. They’re part of your defense mechanism, and they’re useful for things like jobs and trivial conversations with neighbors. But this is love, and love isn’t one of those things you need to be stingy with. Most things in life require you to cautiously sow out parts of yourself. Don’t let love be one of those things.
So on Valentine’s Day, try to sow generously. This can look like an extravagant date if you want, but the really important thing is that you’re giving extravagantly of yourself. Make it a special day by pulling deep from all your resources, not just your pocketbook. Plan something special. Invest deeply in the relationship by expressing all of your feelings, not just cheesy platitudes or whatever Hallmark picked out for you in advance. Spend a lot of time together. Really challenge yourself and be risky with your resources.
It might feel scary at first—giving this much of yourself. That’s just because you’re not used to it. But you’ll reap the rewards of sowing generously and, believe it or not, you’ll want to start doing this regularly.
Tyler Huckabee is RELEVANT's senior editor. He lives in Nashville with his wife, dog and Twitter account.