This was originally written as a speech for my wedding. I am publishing this on my blog for posterity.
When I was 15 years and 10 months old, just about a month or two before my birthday, my father pulled me aside and told me that he was going to bring me out for shopping because he wanted to buy me a ring. In my pubescent 16-year-old mind at that time, I thought it was a little bit lame: a father giving his son jewelry.
To make things ‘worse’, he went on to explain that the ring was a ‘chastity ring’, to promise me that he would remain pure in his commitment to God and to mum, in hope of leading by example and inspiring me to also do the same. That means no pre-marital sex, no lusting after girls, and to give women the respect that they deserve. As a 16-year-old in the 21st Century, this was like being sentenced to ‘Nerd School’, like wearing a label that said – ‘I’m not going to be MAN enough’. In fact, even when placed in a ‘Church-y’ context, it wasn’t the manliest idea too because chastity rings are meant for girls anyway, not guys.
But I didn’t want to disappoint my father and thought it wasn’t asking much of me anyway, if I just bought the ring and kept it in my drawer. So we went shopping and I picked out a ring.
A week later, my parents held a birthday party for me and my close friends were all invited. In front of them all, my dad decided to present the ring to me and told me the exact same thing, announcing that it was a commitment and vow to keep himself pure and upright, and lead by example so that I may also find the strength to do the same. When he started his speech, I thought I would be embarrassed, but on that day, on my 16th birthday ten years ago, at that very moment, I found myself crying. Tears were stinging my eyes because an inexplicable emotion had overwhelmed me.
I didn’t know why this was the case. I thought real men aren’t supposed to cry. Right?
The next few years came, and my hormonal tendencies and struggle with lust became very real. In fact it still remains real till this day. Initially, my human mind could only comprehend that the ring was a ‘limitation’, a symbol of what I could not do. With that, my rebellious nature took over; I wanted to prove otherwise and do what feels good and 'normal'.
But the fact of the matter is that every time I looked at the ring, all I could see was not what I couldn’t do but instead, what I could do. It was not a symbol of denial or limitations. It was a symbol of strength. A symbol that said my father understood the tendencies that men will go through and have gone through, but more importantly, a mark that said ‘you are not alone’ my son.
Soon, it wasn’t just about keeping myself pure anymore, it was about a Father’s love. It was about the fact that I could find strength, encouragement, and hope when I was at the lowest points in my life. With that, I went on to achieve considerable results in school, in the military, and life in general.
Of course, there are times that I have fallen. Quite literally actually, when I sustained a spinal injury and had to go through at least 5 different surgeries. But even after breaking my bones in many parts, that commitment still stood with me. My Dad stood with me, and I found strength.
And then I realised, this was the ‘man-liest’ jewelry that any man could ever have – A Father’s Love.
So today, just before I make a commitment to my wife-to-be, I look back and find strength in the day that my dad made a commitment to me and taught me about what it means to be a man.
Dad, if I may invite you up to join me.
Today, just before I enter into a new convenant with my wife-to-be, I return this ring to you as an act of gratitude. Thank you for the strength that you have bestowed on me as a father. I Love You Dad.
Postscript: My dad has asked me to continue holding on to the ring dearly. I still have that ring today. Also, as a friend puts it, "more than ever now, you will need that ring, because it doesn't end after you're married." Perhaps one day, I will give the same ring to my child too.