Happy Valentine’s Day: A letter from a dad to a son
Kelvin Seah // February 5, 2021, 5:58 pm
February 14’s here again. Since you’re now of age to date, I thought it’s high time I shared my Valentine experiences with you in the hope it’ll help you navigate the sea of love.
I remember well the stress I had as a JC (and later university) student whenever Valentine’s Day came around.
Before, I had been cushioned from its “impact”, being in an all-boys secondary school. That in itself was already bad enough.
To add to it the pressure of “finding a Valentine”, buying flowers, chocolates and presents?! That, would get any teen with raging hormones to pop yet another pimple on a less than screen-idol-looking face!
Deep down, I really wanted to be someone special. For someone special.
Speaking of which, I was spared from the pressure in another significant way.
Back then, no one would really look at me twice, not without a little smirk or stifled guffaw. I was gangly and clumsy, a poor dresser and lousy at shaving to boot.
Even I had to agree when some friends nicknamed me Lao Fu Zi, thanks to the “two brush strokes” above my lips that passed for a sorry excuse of a moustache!
Anyway, most teenage eyes were more likely to be glued to the types that resemble the eye-candy cast of Beverly Hills 90210 (the Riverdale of the early 90s).
I’ve come a very long way since then (okay, maybe not that long, especially on days I forget to shave!).
But in those days, I was a socially awkward teen. I was unsure of myself and how to behave around others (especially girls). I’m fine if it’s a short chat or friendly banter, but boyfriend material? Forget it.
Yet deep down, I really wanted to be someone special. For someone special.
After leaving school battered and bruised from one relationship fumble to another, I asked God countless times if love and marriage were in His plans for me.
The handful of amateurish attempts I made to date girls during Valentine’s Day had left me with what felt like permanent scars sustained from a battlefield!
However, His answer to my question (as is often the case for me with God), was to direct me to books.
One book in particular – Josh McDowell’s The Secret of Loving – really helped to shape my thinking with regards to a search for that significant other.
The book came to me when I was near my mid-20s, painfully aware that my youth was long gone and my “marriage clock” was ticking away fast!
Without giving too much away, the book was about how the author pursued a Bible-obedient girl by trying to disprove Christianity.
The hardened atheist failed miserably, but won the girl and went on to become a well-regarded international evangelist and apologist for Christ!
I learned something from McDowell’s pursuit of the girl and subsequent conversion. In order to find that special someone who would love and value me, I first had to be a person worthy of that kind of love.
Writer Elof Nelson once said in his 1967 book Your Life Together: ”Success in marriage is more than finding the right person. Being the right person is even more important.
“I have found that young people I counsel with are looking for the perfect mate without being concerned about the person their mate is getting.”
Think that’s too old a quote? Let me throw a few even older ones at you:
- John 3:16
- John 15:13
- Ephesians 5:25, 33
- 1 John 3:18
- 1 John 4:7-12
Every one of these speaks of an agape love that’s self-sacrificing and other-centred. But let’s not stop at the New Testament – let’s go even further back!
How about Proverbs 30:19 which speaks of the mystery that is the love between a man and a woman?
Or better yet, Genesis 29:20. There, we read of how Jacob slaved for seven years just to earn the right to marry Rachel. Well, 14 years actually, if you recall how her father swapped Rachel for Leah on Jacob’s wedding night!
The poor man had to slave another seven years to finally wed his true love.
Of course, neither you nor I would want you to wait 14 years like Jacob! But just think how Rachel must have felt, watching Jacob stay the course for that long just to win her hand in marriage.
Any woman’s heart would have been long won over by the 14th month, let alone the 14th year!
THE RIGHT ONE
This brings me to the key to finding true love. For that, I would have to quote from Josh McDowell’s book.
In it, he spoke of a time at the University of Washington where a second-year student approached him to show his diary in which he listed 14 qualities he was looking for in the woman he hoped to marry.
Instead of commenting on the list, McDowell asked the student if those qualities could be found in his own life.
McDowell then went on to say: “It’s not so much finding the right person, but being the right person that counts in marriage. If you want a queen, you need to be a king.”
There it is again! Did you catch that? The key to searching for the right person is being the right person.
Now don’t think for a minute that I’m talking about earning someone’s love the way you earn wages at a job. True love isn’t a barter trade or a commercial transaction.
I’m talking about the need to turn the lenses inwards to examine ourselves. What qualities do we have that make us a suitable mate for someone else?
It’s one thing to list down the qualities that you desire in that someone special; it’s quite another when you look at that list and realise that you haven’t any of those qualities yourself!
When I finished the book, I recall putting it down and praying. In my prayer, I asked for God’s forgiveness for my self-centredness.
I resolved to work on myself first before I dared look outwards to see if there’s someone for me.
Since I wanted someone who was selfless and giving, I went ahead to give of my time to help friends and family whenever I could.
So for example, since I wanted someone who was selfless and giving, I went ahead to give of my time to help friends and family whenever I could.
And as I wanted someone rooted in her Christian faith, I read the Bible more intentionally from cover to cover and took steps to be part of communities that would bolster my spiritual growth – all the while praying and seeking God’s direction daily.
The process proved to be a very freeing experience. There was a certain calm and serenity to the whole thing.
I had surrendered to God what I couldn’t control (who that “soul mate” was going to be), and focused instead on becoming a worthy recipient of true love.
In all that surrender, I found the freedom to trust God that He had a plan for me.
A year later, I met your mother. And the rest, as they say, is history.
I’m not saying, of course, that it will also take a year for you. God will reveal in His own time and according to His plan who He’s prepared for your future.
But the challenge is this: are you willing to work on yourself while simultaneously surrendering the outcome to God?
If you are, then you’re good. Then the heady and often intoxicating rush of this annual (now highly commercial) event of Valentine’s Day will not be a stressful moment for you at all.
Alright, I hope this letter will inform how you view this event henceforth. Let me know if you need more pointers okay?
With lots of love,
P.S. If you would still like to give something special for someone special on Valentine’s Day, there’s always your mum! 😉