When My Parents Didn’t Like My Date

With my Facebook newsfeed dominated by status updates of engagements, weddings, and babies, I thought it was best I got my act together or risk growing old alone.

I had long given up hope of meeting anyone at work, and even though I do sporting activities like swimming, it is such an individual sport that it is almost impossible to meet anyone. Besides, the swim squad that I am with comprises mostly students and their parents.

So, I did what I assumed most single Millennials would do: I signed up on a few online dating sites. I figured since we spend so much of our time online—from following our favourite bloggers to shopping—it made sense to also meet potential dates online.

After taking a few recommendations from a friend, I duly created an account for each of the sites, filled out my profile, and took extra care to answer the various questionnaires. You see, I didn’t want to jinx my chances of meeting the right person, so I made sure my answers were honest enough, but I was careful not to give too much away, to protect my identity.

But boy did the weirdos roll in. One asked if I would move to Christchurch, New Zealand, if we “clicked”—I live in Auckland—after we had exchanged all of two chat messages. He said he wasn’t looking to waste his time, and if I couldn’t promise that I’d move to another town for him, then he’d like to move on.

Another said he liked Asian women because they were “kind, obedient, and had a nice figure”. Needless to say, I blocked him as fast as I could. And don’t get me started on one of the other dates, who turned out to be really gross. Besides making highly inappropriate comments, he seemed to fail to grasp the concept of personal space—he kept pressing in close to me. I had to make up excuses to flee within half an hour of meeting him. Fortunately, we had met at a cafe that was only a five-minute drive from my house, which made it easy for me to execute my exit.

I did meet a few decent guys online, but nothing serious came out of those encounters. There was a paramedic who was really nice, but conversations were stilted. I also connected with a Canadian, who happened to be in New Zealand for a short cycling tour. But while we got on relatively well, there was no telling when he would be back in this part of town again. Needless to say, that one died a natural death.

So imagine my delight when I eventually found someone whom I connected with. On paper, he seemed eligible enough; he was an engineer who also enjoyed reading and surfing. We started chatting online, and I thought, “Perfect! My patience has paid off!” After a few weeks of exchanging text messages, we decided to meet in person to see if we’d enjoy each other’s company.

Our first date, at a nearby cafe, went on for four hours, which I thought was a good sign. Previous dates had me checking my watch every second, hoping for the hour to be up.

Naturally, when he asked if we could hang out again, I agreed. A few more dates followed, and soon I was texting my friends to tell them how much fun I was having. When he bought a bouquet of flowers from the supermarket, I thought, “How cute!”

So all in all, it looked like things had fallen into place and we decided we would make the relationship “Facebook official”. When friends and acquaintances commented on how cute we both looked together (when they saw our photo on Facebook), I replied, “I know, right? He’s great!”

At that stage, we had been going out for only a month. But when he asked if he could meet my parents, I didn’t think twice about it. You see, having heard stories from friends with partners who wouldn’t commit despite being together for years, I thought it was sweet of my date to make that effort. “After all, I would have to meet them eventually,” he said. Furthermore, his parents, who lived in the UK, were making plans to meet up when they heard I would be visiting the country later. As for my date, he had moved to New Zealand about three years ago after he was made redundant back in the UK.

When I told my dad that my date wanted to meet them over lunch, he accepted the invite. When the day rolled round, I was nervous about how the lunch would go, and hoped my parents would like him.

Alas, they didn’t.

I was devastated. “But why?” I asked. There were tears and long conversations with my sister and my dad. Eventually, my dad said he felt there was something “not quite right” with the guy, and his instincts were telling him that this man wasn’t the one for me. Next came the blow: I had to break up with him because my dad didn’t think anything good would come out of it.

“But it’s so hard to meet someone that I can get along with,” I said, dismayed. I was ready to argue that it was impossible to suss out the character traits of someone over lunch, so how would my dad know “something was not right”? There were times when I made a rash judgment about someone, only to find out later how nice and kind the person really was.

But my dad is a good judge of character. Later, he told me that he suspected that there was more to my date than he had let on, and that his body language had given him away. On hindsight, I should have picked up on the red flags. For one, he wasn’t a Christian. Second, I remembered how agitated he had become when a tour guide was a few minutes late picking us up for a tour. I didn’t think it was a big deal, but he kept prancing down the hallway, checking his watch, while muttering about how late the tour guide was (the guide showed up five minutes past the hour). There was also the time, when we were out on a double-date with my sister, where he helped himself to most of the food on the table without offering any to others.

And then there were the many nights when he’d have me hanging out with him until quite late, forgetting that I had to wake up early for work. I hadn’t thought that this would be an issue, but as my dad said, being considerate of other people’s needs never goes out of style.

So, I did what I had to do and called it quits with the guy. Needless to say, he didn’t take the news very well, and within 24 hours, deleted me from his Facebook friend list. Later, he sent me a private message to say he was sorry for the “knee jerk reaction” but as he was “falling in love” with me, he was hurt by my decision to break up with him.

While some of my friends understood my reason for heeding my dad’s advice, a few were shocked at my decision. “But you were so happy with him!” they said, “And it’s not for your parents to say if you can or can’t see someone.” It wasn’t easy, but I knew that in these circumstances, I had to listen to my parents because they were a lot wiser than I am in terms of relationships.

Movies will have us believe it’s a lot more romantic to follow our hearts and to run away with our beloved—and tough luck to our parents and their fuddy-duddy advice.

However, I have seen friends who refused to take their parents’ advice, and are finding themselves in difficult marriages (I have also seen the opposite, but more on this another time). Seeing these real-life examples help me better appreciate the verses like Proverbs 1:8-9, which liken the advice of our parents to a garland to grace our head and a chain to adorn our neck. There is value and beauty in our parents’ well-intended advice; they do have our best interests at heart.

American pastor Gary Thomas and author of The Sacred Search wrote, “Your parents know you better than you may realize, and even if they aren’t believers (Christians), they still usually want the best for you. At least consider their opinions . . . Also, talk to your pastor and other godly people you respect: ‘Does this relationship seem like a ‘fit’ to you? Are there any areas you’re concerned about?’ ”

Sure, no one is perfect. I wasn’t looking for Mr Perfect and I am far from Miss Perfect. But it was the culmination of all these things which made me realize, looking back, that breaking up with him was probably a good thing. Sometimes we make excuses for our date’s bad behaviour, thinking the person would change once we tie the knot. But more often than not, that doesn’t happen. I was deeply unhappy about it in the beginning, but I had made up my mind and there was no turning back.

Perhaps you’re in a similar situation where the person you’re dating hasn’t been given your parents’ stamp of approval, and you think your parents are a killjoy. Whatever the reason might be, I’d like to encourage you to listen to your parents, and seek out their reasons behind their objections. It doesn’t mean that we must always take in everything they say, but at the very least, we should give their advice some thought.

Though it might be a little hard to swallow, I believe that it will be worth your while in the long run, just as it was for me. A wise friend said, “There are worse things than being alone.”


It’s 2016 Hottest Christmas Gift: A Toy Egg

Six months ago, I would have scoffed at the idea that the most wanted toy for the Christmas season was a toy egg.

Okay, it’s not exactly a toy egg. Inside the egg is a mechanical stuffed toy animal, and the owner has to “help” it hatch from its egg. In case you haven’t heard, Hatchimals—as they are called—are one of the best-selling toys across the world this Christmas.

I know exactly what you’re thinking—Hatchiwhat?

This toy animal requires the owner to hatch it in an interactive way—by petting the egg, playing with it, and “comforting” it when it’s upset. And when the time is ready for the wee creature to pop out, you just need to rub the bottom of the egg while the animal pecks its way out. Once hatched, the animal goes through a series of life stages, from baby to toddler to the last stage, a kid.

In New Zealand, the toy is sold out for the Christmas season—to the dismay of some parents. From what I’ve heard, they will have to wait till February when a new shipment comes in.

Parents aren’t the only ones scrambling in search of the perfect Christmas gift for their loved ones. I am among the masses panicking because I may have left my Christmas shopping too late and missed the cut-off dates for international delivery.

Although I’m not running around trying to trace down the last Hatchimal toy available, I’ve been scouring supermarket aisles, websites, and malls for nice presents that are within my budget.

So far, I have successfully sourced boxes of chocolates, biscuits, beautifully scented soaps and lotions for my friends. For those friends living overseas with long, tricky addresses, I have resorted to buying Amazon gift cards for them. I have also managed to pick up a few treats for myself along the way (you see, my birthday was yesterday, just four days before Christmas).

As we rush into this busy season, checking off our shopping lists and making sure we’ve bought the nicest, cutest presents for the people we love, it’s so easy to oversee one very important detail: Christmas is about celebrating Jesus Christ.

What crossed your mind when you thought of Christmas? Was it: “Yay, it’s Jesus’ birthday! I am so glad He came to walk with us”? Well, mine was: “Yay, I can’t wait for the holidays! Will need to hang out with my friends at the beach.” (I live in New Zealand, so it’s summer time here when Christmas rolls around.)

It reminded me of a story I was once told about a couple who threw a birthday party to celebrate their child turning a year old.

Friends who turned up for the birthday were shown to the couple’s bedroom so they could leave their coats and presents on the bed before making their way to the lounge for food and drinks.

The party went on and on, until someone asked where the child as they had not heard her cry in a while. This led the worried parents to search the whole house for their child, only to find their baby—who had somehow found her way to their bed—suffocated under the piles of coats and presents of well-wishers.

It’s a morbid story, I know, but the story has stuck with me because it reminds me of how easily we drown out the real meaning of Christmas when we’re caught up in the world’s idea of the festive season. So if we’ve been moping or complaining about how we didn’t manage to secure the latest product or Hatchimal toy this Christmas, perhaps it’s a good time to remind ourselves why we’re celebrating in the first place. After all, it’s really not worth our time and energy obsessing over the latest toy that will likely last us for just a few months before its batteries go flat, or it breaks down, or it’s pushed out of a market by a newer toy.

We have already been given the ultimate gift more than 2,000 years ago, and that’s in the person of Jesus. Jesus was given to us—at absolutely no expense on our end, because God loves us so very much (John 3:16). And the Scripture tells us this is no ordinary child. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

Jesus is the most costly and perfect gift God can ever give. And He’s the only gift we ever need, for He will never disappoint.

So, as we spoil our loved ones with presents and gather round the dining table for Christmas dinners and fellowship, let’s not forget to talk about the ultimate gift we can ever receive, and that is our Lord Jesus Christ—God Himself.


Stop Choosing “Dirty Thoughts”

“Why are you so stu . . . ”

Even though my math tuition teacher failed to finish her sentence, the small class of six pupils knew what she was about to say (stupid) and whom she had aimed it at (me).

She had spent a good half an hour explaining an algebra equation. My fellow classmates had no trouble understanding her, but I still could not make any sense of it. Numbers boggle my mind and I’d rather spend my days writing or reading instead of solving big mathematical problems.

However, math was a compulsory subject, and so my parents had me attend tuition in hopes that it would help me pass my exams. Clearly, it didn’t help: I had tested my teacher’s patience to the limits and eventually, I did take home a dismal math mark despite the extra classes.

My family eventually moved to another country where I had the option of dropping maths if I wanted. But I can still remember the deep humiliation that washed over me that fateful night 16 years ago. Even today, every now and then, the words my former tuition teacher uttered would find their way back into my mind.

“Well, maybe because it’s true. You are stupid,” the little voice would begin. It doesn’t take a lot to trigger that thought—burning my dinner, not being able to drive a car after three lessons, or choosing an arts major when I should have probably done a science major (the fact I have zero interest in either the sciences or math is irrelevant).

I would try to shake off the thoughts, but they have an annoying habit of lingering longer than they should. These negative thoughts also have a bad habit of dropping in without any notice.

The good thing is, I have since learned that I have the power to choose my thoughts. These days, I am getting better at identifying if a particular thought is biblical or not.

If you’re finding yourself in a similar situation where unwanted thoughts drop in without your permission, these few pointers may help you.

1) Think Positive Thoughts

In the 2003 animated movie, Finding Nemo, Gill (the black-and-white striped fish that was trapped in an aquarium with the rest of his fish pals and was planning an escape) ordered the school of fish to “be as gross as possible. Think dirty thoughts. We’re gonna make this tank so filthy the dentist will have to clean it.”

In a cartoon setting, it’s easy to see how “dirty thoughts” can actually pollute a fish tank. But Gill’s words work in reality too—our “dirty thoughts” can affect our lives. If we entertain negative thoughts such as, “I can’t do this”, “I’m too dumb”, or “No one likes me”, we will eventually believe those thoughts to be true and it can be disastrous.

For example, if I were to beat myself up every time I burned my dinner and think I’m “stupid” for failing to serve up a decent meal, I’ll eventually give up learning how to do a proper dish and probably miss out on the joy that can come from creating delicious food.

The good news is that the Bible says we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16), and I believe this means we have been equipped to act and think like Him. Instead of sitting around entertaining our “dirty thoughts”, we are called to re-focus our thoughts on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable (Philippians 4:8). For example, in the midst of suffering, trials, and tribulations, we can swap thoughts such as “I can’t do this” with God’s truth, such as “I can do all things through Him [Christ] who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

It’s only when we start filling our minds with God’s truths that we’ll be able to break away from the chains of negative thoughts.

2) Bring Every Thought Into Obedience

“You know, I sometimes feel like the village idiot. That one person who, you know, means well and tries to help everyone, but is just a little . . . simple,” I told my sister one evening. She looked at me in surprise and asked what made me entertain such a thought.

I explained that the thought had popped into my head when I was showering after swim practice. It was a particularly long Friday. I had a very busy day at work and I felt like I hadn’t done my best at swim practice. I had to ask my coach to repeat the sets to me twice and I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to do after I had set off.

To top it off, a group of eight-year-olds were actually a lot faster than me. That’s when those words from my math tuition teacher crept into my mind, and I started believing that was the reason the kids had beaten me. I was too stupid to even swim properly.

I was held bondage to the lies that I was “stupid” and was therefore incompetent when it came to completing tasks set before me. To overcome the lies said to me, I had to first fight against any negative thoughts which came free-falling into my head.

In 2 Corinthians 10:5-7, we are told to “refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God: and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One)”.

I sometimes picture my negative thoughts as a wild beast running through my head, like a bull in a china shop, shattering my self-confidence and everything in between. Then I imagine myself rushing toward the bull like an animal officer would, with a tranquilizer in hand, in a bid to calm the bull and have it dragged to God because it’s not welcomed.

3) Spend Time with God

The Bible says we are not fighting against “flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).

This means we can’t fight these thoughts with our own strength. We need to spend time in prayer, asking God to equip us for battle. We need to put on the “full armour of God” which consists of the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, feet shod with the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:13-17).

When we gird ourselves with His armour, we can stand against the fiery arrows of negative thoughts fired at us by the devil.

Admittedly, I don’t spend as much time praying and being in fellowship with Him as much as I want to. And I only run to Him in times of trouble. But as we spend time with Him, we begin to discern His voice and learn if the thoughts that come floating into our heads are of His or mere rubbish. Just as Jesus says, “My sheep listen to my voice, I know them and they follow me” (John 10:27).

Would God call me stupid, useless, good for nothing? No, He wouldn’t. God tells us He loves us because we are “precious and honoured in His sight” (Isaiah 43:4) and He has purchased us with “the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:19).

So therefore, the next time the sentence, “You’re pretty useless” or any form of negative thought comes drifting into your mind, you can tell it, “No, you’re not of God”.

Ultimately, we have the choice to choose our thoughts and the little thoughts we process and accept will affect our future. As a famous quote goes, “Watch your thoughts, they become words; watch your words, they become actions; watch your actions, they become habits; watch your habits, they become character; watch your character, for it becomes your destiny”.


When I Found the Missing Piece To Success

Sometime ago, I started mulling over the meaning of success.

This came about when my dad made an offhand comment on how successful one of my distant cousins, a surgeon, was in life. My cousin (whom I’ve never met) was also married with twins. All in, it looked like she was success personified. I remember telling my dad—rather grumpily—that arts graduates can be just as successful in life as their medicine-studying counterparts. I mean, look at New Zealand film director Taika Waititi. He’s successful! English actor Tom Hiddleston was singing Waititi’s praises, admiring him for his directing prowess and also said he loved Waititi’s movie, Hunt For The Wilderpeople.

But the comment got me thinking about the definition of success.

Does it mean having a large bank account, owning expensive clothes and shoes, and living in a luxurious apartment? Does it mean giving up your comfortable job and steady income to volunteer in a third-world country? Or does it mean having a family, settling down in a nice home, and enjoying a good social life with family and friends?

I Googled “what is success?”, and got 1,040,000 search results. The first thing that caught my eye was a playlist of talks featuring prominent individuals sharing their ideas and definitions of success. Two of them stood out in particular.

One was by American author Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote the massively popular 2006 memoir Eat Pray Love. To her, success meant persevering in the face of setbacks. Gilbert received numerous rejection letters over six years before she published her first book. But as devastating as those rejections were, she never saw quitting as an option.

The other was by late American basketball player and coach John Wooden, who defined success as “a peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming”.

After listening to both talks, I felt like I had a better understanding of what made a successful life. It seemed to be about overcoming adversities and being the best we could be. And these principles were consistent with what the Bible teaches. The Bible warns against laziness (Proverbs 6:10-11; Proverbs 10:4) and urges us to give our best in everything we do, recognizing that we work for God and not for men (Colossians 3:23-24).

But I couldn’t help but feel that something was still missing in this “success formula”.

So I looked up my all-time favourite book, The Purpose Driven Life, by American pastor Rick Warren. He wrote that humans weren’t created just to consume resources or to “get” the most out of life, but that God had created us to make a difference in our lives by giving and serving. Mother Teresa, for example, didn’t own a large mansion, yet her works have impacted millions of people around her.

And, of course, there’s Jesus Himself. He was born into a humble life, without pomp or pageantry. He devoted His life to serving and ministering to others, doing many miracles among them to show His Father’s power and love. Later on, Jesus demonstrated the biggest act of service and sacrifice by laying down His life for us. Up till today, His name is remembered and His one selfless act continues to change lives around the world. How’s that for a successful life?

So if Jesus’ life is the epitome of success, we can be confident that God doesn’t measure our success by our material wealth. Neither does He measure our success by the good deeds we do or the achievements we have.

Having said that, it’s not wrong if we’re blessed with a good income, have great achievements, or if we want to volunteer in society. I know a couple of businessmen and entrepreneurs who draw in large salaries and contribute a portion of their earnings to the church as their means of service. And then there are those who are called to be missionaries and leave the comforts of their home to serve in unfamiliar environments. In God’s eyes, both groups are just as valuable and just as successful because their motivation is the same—to serve and give to God.

I know it can be easy to define success by our salaries, job titles, and achievements in life. I fall into this trap every now and then, and compare my job to my friends’ high-flying careers. I sometimes even feel embarrassed for having not embarked on any big missions in my life, and feel like I have fallen short of the mark of “success”.

But I have to constantly remind myself that God doesn’t care for these things. There’ll be a day when we have to stand before God to give an account of how we have lived. Will we be able to stand confidently before Him knowing we have served Him wholeheartedly and given Him our best? If so, I truly believe that that’s the mark of a successful life!