I don’t know why I always wait until the last minute to buy my wife’s Valentine’s Day present. Most likely, it’s because I’m a guy.

It’s a terrifying ordeal trying to pick out a Valentine’s Day card on Valentine’s Day evening because there is absolutely no selection left. I don’t know who else could have bought up all the good cards, because all the men on the planet are standing right there beside me in the greeting card aisle.

A Man's Guide to Valentine's Day by Charles MarshallThe only cards left by that time are written in some strange, soap opera-type language that I don’t even understand and say things like, “My Darling, blah-blah rose petals something something cherish you yada yada eternity.”

Let me tell you, I’m as romantic as the next guy, but if I go home with a card like that, my wife is going to look at me like I just beamed down from the planet Weirdonia.

But the same thing happens every year. About one week before Valentine’s Day, I think that the big day is nowhere on the radar, so I figure I still have pul-lenty of time to shop for my wife. I decide to wait a bit longer and then I’ll get right on it. Yesiree, I’m going to get right on it.

About one day before Valentine’s Day, I realize it’s time to start thinking about what gift to buy, so I decide to research the subject by watching lots of television.

Around 5 p.m. on Valentine’s Day, I sense faint warning bells deep within me. I begin to feel there is some impending danger that threatens not only my happiness but perhaps my life as well. I’m not sure exactly what it is. Maybe something to do with my wife….

At 5:02 p.m. I experience a foxhole-grade terror as I perceive what that little item is that has escaped my attention. It is only then that I begin my five-step Valentine’s Day shopping ritual.

Step 1 — Go to the flower store and discover there are no flowers left. Get back in car and throw a mini temper tantrum.

Step 2 — Go to the candy store and discover there is a world chocolate shortage. Briefly contemplate purchasing my wife a pack of Skittles for Valentine’s Day. Briefly contemplate an early death. Decide against the Skittles.

Step 3 — Rush to mall and enter swanky department store. Walk by the ladies’ unmentionables department and turn beet-red. Kill thirty minutes trying to work up enough nerve to enter said department. Enter ladies’ unmentionables department and get ugly looks from every woman within visual range. Have a moment of stark clarity, becoming aware that I never was, and never will be, the type of guy that can shop for that kind of stuff. Tear out of ladies’ unmentionables department like a convict with a pack of bloodhounds at his heels.

Step 4 — Enter regular women’s clothing department and become aware I have no idea what size my wife wears. Experience momentary elation as I remember her measurements are 48-38-7, but then realize that is my bicycle lock combination, not my wife’s measurements. Plummet into deep depression.

Step 5 — Resign myself to buying my way out of the dilemma. Go to jewelry store and wait in line behind about fifty thousand other schmos who are in the same predicament as myself.

It’s a shame that Valentine’s Day can turn into one more thing on our list to accomplish, isn’t it? That doesn’t seem like a very good way to celebrate our relationships.

Sometimes a relationship with God can be that way. We can go through all the motions without experiencing a real connection with a loving father. All of the trappings of Christianity—church services, reading the Bible, praying, etc.—can either be opportunities to connect with God, or just more stuff to tick off our lists in an effort to make sure we don’t get in trouble. If the latter is our motive, then we’ve managed to miss the romance of knowing God.

And speaking of romance, I have decided that this year is going to be different. I plan to go ahead and get a jump on shopping for a gift for my wife, right after I watch a little tele…, um, do some Valentine’s Day gift research.