Dear Dr. Tony...

Dear Dr. Tony...

Dr Tony Rapu Picture credit: Obi Somto Photography

Dear Dr Tony,

Thank you for your last article “Who Stole My Wedding Gown?” I am currently in my late thirties and still single. But how do I deal with my physical needs? Am I supposed to pretend my sexuality does not exist? I think about it a thousand times a day; how do I get it out of my mind? Sometimes I am so ashamed of my thoughts. How can I have a relationship with God when He makes impossible demands of me? I feel He threatens me with judgement when I fail. I used to be an advocate for waiting for sex until marriage, but as the years have gone by, I no longer feel this way. I think it's all well and good for teens and those in their early twenties to strive for such a goal, but as someone who has entered her late thirties, it seems like an outdated and irrelevant idea. If I do date a man now I cannot promise we will not have sex outside of marriage. I just know that waiting is not something I am personally interested in anymore.

Dee

Dear Dee,

You are certainly not alone in these struggles. There are thousands of people going through the very same thing you are talking about. Leaders are often unable - or perhaps reluctant - to publicly address these issues satisfactorily. The reason for this may be the fear of controversy over questions of sexuality or a lack of understanding of the key challenges you have noted or possibly because sometimes there are no easy answers when it comes to faith and sexuality.

Remember that we were created as sexual beings. Sex was God's idea in the first place and it was a part of His creation He called “good.” So keep one thing in mind as you read this; your sexual desire is a good thing, and a part of God's wonderful plan for humanity. Free yourself from feelings of self-hate, shame and accusation as far as your sexuality is concerned. You are loved by God and you have natural sexual desires which are propelling you in the direction of marriage. We are not dirty and sinful because of our God-given sexual urges. It is how we manage and channel these desires that often poses the problems. The clincher is that God gave us marriage as He intended so we would be free to celebrate our sexuality in total, complete and satisfying freedom.

However, even when you do get married do not think your struggle to remain pure will end with the wedding ceremony. Sexual purity is a battle throughout adulthood. It just takes a different form in marriage. Your married friends may be free to have sex but that does not mean they are not struggling with porn, fantasies, images from their past, extramarital flirtations and affairs. There are often other unspoken and very personal areas of conflict over sex in marriage, where for instance, physical infirmity in a partner, incapacitation or illness prevents sexual intercourse. Single or married, yielding your sexuality to God will always be a battle.

Is it really possible to control our sexual desires as single people? The answer is ‘yes’ and ‘no’. In one sense as long as we live in a broken world we will continue to struggle with many things in life. Controlling sexual desire is one of them. Perhaps that is why we need a Savior. I believe singles (and married people) can understand something deeper about God through their sexuality. I believe the ultimate reason for sexuality may be to reflect the deepest desires that exist between us and God. Our sexual longings and desires somehow point to a deeper intimacy beyond what even the best marriage can provide. This reference is often made at weddings where the bride and groom are compared to Christ and the Church.

If we are created as sexual beings and then asked to wait an excruciatingly long time for sex only in marriage, perhaps this is where we learn to meet our very deepest desires in God alone. I know that's easy to say but incredibly hard to live out. Sometimes it is in those moments of deep longing and frustration that we discover the truth about intimacy with God and discover pathways toward that long journey of knowing Him. Ask God to help you in this battle, which is really what it is. Ask for grace in the areas of self control and discipline. Do not allow your frustrations to turn into bitterness, cutting you off from the God who understands you best and can help you the most.

There are some practical steps we are often encouraged to take. I know it may sound trite and boorish but spending time in scripture is one. God's Word strengthens, sustains and convicts. Unless you are constantly standing on truth it is very easy to fall for other narratives. You also need accountability; find trusted people to be open and honest with about your feelings and failings. When issues are brought to light, they often lose their power to condemn.

It is wise not to feed your fantasies. Evaluate your recreational habits. With the way advertising exploits sex, it would be impossible not to think about sex even just watching TV. So choose your entertainment carefully. Certain songs and books, TV shows, movies and websites only turn up the sexual pressure. Movies are now more graphic than ever. Feeding your thought life with sexual images only makes it harder to remain pure in your actions.

Remember, it's not the sinless person who makes it to the end; rather, it is those who pick themselves up after they stumble. If your struggle seems relentless, remember this; when you commit yourself to sexual integrity, you commit yourself to a direction, not to perfection. You may stumble along the way - that's no justification to do the wrong thing, just a realistic view of life in this fallen world of ours. What determines the success or failure of an imperfect person (and who isn't?) is their willingness to pick themselves up, confess their faults, and then continue in the direction they committed themselves to.

Finally, what's your passion? What's your calling? How clear are your goals? Get a life! The one who doesn't have a life - a passion, a sense of meaning - is the person with an emptiness tailor-made for sexual sin. Life is more than keeping yourself sexually pure. As important as purity is, life is also about knowing who you are and why you exist, where your priorities lie, and where you're headed. Commit yourself to developing your life as a good steward of your gifts and opportunities, and make that the context in which you seek to maintain your sexual purity.

Sexual purity for its own sake is a good thing; sexual purity for the sake of a higher calling is even better. So pursue your goals in life with zeal and with passion. Make the most of your time; encourage new friendships, find new hobbies, join a study group or exercise class, serve in your local assembly. If you answer the call to be 'set apart' it will require you to think a little differently from the way others think. Being a follower of Christ has never been easy. Our call is to surrender some of our desires. It is all part of building faith and character. We should actually view the challenge of managing our sexual desires as an opportunity to develop godly, healthy character and habits that please God. The best news though is that you can win this battle.

#FathersDay2016: Letter To My Daughters

#FathersDay2016: Letter To My Daughters

Dr Tony Rapu and his daughters, Kene and Uju Picture Credit: Obi Somto Photography

Dear Uju and Kene,

MY PRECIOUS DAUGHTERS

On Father’s Day last year, I wrote a letter to your brother, hoping that even if he didn’t read it at the time, someday he would refer to it. This Father’s Day, I am also sharing words of encouragement with you, in the hope that they would be helpful now or when you need them in the future. Even though the world celebrates Father’s Day every June, I celebrate being your father every day of the year.

Uju, ever since you were young, you have shown a quiet strength and incredible thoughtfulness towards others. You have always carried yourself with gentle dignity, and we called you the ‘brainbox’ of the family. Not surprisingly, you went ahead and became a Medical Doctor. Kene, you have always had a ‘take charge’ personality. We were always proud to hear you speak your mind and see you address issues in a forthright manner. Of course, a Law degree seemed to be the natural direction of a profession for you. Both your unique qualities have helped you grow into two amazing ladies who have gone beyond the boundaries of Medicine and Law to express yourselves in very creative ways.

SPECIAL MOMENTS
We have shared many special moments as a family. I cherish even those times when we worked together to resolve challenging issues which we faced either as individuals or collectively as a family. Whether it was a disappointment, a financial problem, difficulty at school, illness or emotional upheaval, we would encourage whoever was going through it to remain strong until they pulled through.

Even though we have had memorable conversations through all these, in some ways I have been the stereotypical man unable to fully open up and express my feelings to my daughters. So let me start by saying there will never be another man who will love you as much as I do; but I do pray there will one day be a man who comes close to cherishing, loving and caring for you as I do.

You have enriched my life and I am honoured to have you as my daughters. A man could not have wished for better daughters. You both serve the Lord not because of my relationship with Him, but rather because you have come to experience Him yourselves. That is such a gratifying thing!

Dr Tony Rapu and his daughter, Uju Pic Credit: Obi Somto Photography

GIRLS NEED THEIR FATHER
You will never know how deeply a father loves a daughter; it’s a feeling that is difficult to express in words. There’s a mixture of strength and tenderness in that special bond. A father protects and nurtures. A father’s love for his daughter provides a foundation for her emotional stability. That’s why neglect from a father is a cruel thing. A girl who once saw me hug Uju after a church service many years ago confided that her father had never hugged her. Hers was a deep pain. That is often the young woman who will seek her self-worth in the affection of a man, sometimes a man far older than her, because she is in search of the father who never provided that affection.

NEVER FORGET WHERE YOU CAME FROM
Do not forget about the value of a family that cares for you. Remember the experiences, training and guidance that you have received. Over the years, I have tried to help you define your identity as individuals rather than through the pastor-father image that some have of me. In the same vein, your self-worth should not defined by any man, but rather by God. Your mum and I have sought to model for you what a biblical and godly marriage should be. We are not perfect and sometimes you have seen these imperfections, but that’s okay – you can also learn from it. Your mother is my equal. She is my friend. She stands as an individual in her own right. No male in your life was designed by God to be the source of your life, the basis of your happiness, or the stability of your future. Christ is all that to you and more. He is your source, your sufficiency and your stability. For this reason, no matter what you hear from well-meaning pastors, I will encourage you to remember what your mum and I have taught you over the years. You are equal in worth, value, significance and purpose to any man. You can both lead and follow. You can serve and be served; you can encourage and also be encouraged in every area of life including the emotional and spiritual.

CHOOSE YOUR DREAM
May you find who you are within yourselves because your God-given dream is in you. Discover what you want to do in the world, and when you have chosen it, pursue it with determination and tenacity. Enjoy life. Live life with a sense of meaning and purpose. Commit yourselves to developing your lives as good stewards of your gifts and opportunities. May you fearlessly and diligently live out your passion in the world. I have all the confidence in the world that both of you are capable of harnessing your strengths to be successful and to become the women that you want to be.

Dr Tony Rapu and his daughter, Kene Pic Credit: Obi Somto Photography

REMAINING PURE
Always remember that your worth, value and beauty are not defined or dependent on any man. You are no less of a woman for choosing to maintain your sexual purity. Of course there will be pressure from different quarters, and you may even hear loud and mocking voices calling you naive or old fashioned, but some things are worth the wait and this is one of them. We are told that engaging in sex and sexual activity is completely normal and natural before you are married, but if a man does not respect you as a woman and your desire for sexual purity, then he is not worthy of you. You are not a means to his end. You are of great value before God. You are worth the wait. You do not ever have to compromise or settle for anyone.

INNER BEAUTY
In a world increasingly defined by fashion trends, television and glossy magazines, we are bombarded with images that prescribe the world’s standard of beauty and how to attain it. The truth is that beauty does not come from the makeup you wear, the style of your hair or the even the curviness of your body. It does not come from how flawless your skin may be or how youthful your appearance is. All this is commendable and acceptable but true beauty comes from the radiance of God, which is the fruit of your yieldedness to Him. That is unsurpassed beauty. Your worth, value and beauty come from God and God alone. In that truth, you will never need to measure up to the unreasonable expectations of society about how you should look, act, or what you should believe about yourself. Who you are in God is what makes you valuable and beautiful. Refuse to buy into any other narrative except that which defines you as daughters of God.

Dr Tony Rapu and his daughters, Uju and Kene Pic Credit: Obi Somto Photography

DON'T MARRY A BOY
Don’t marry a boy no matter how old he may be. Today, there are many boys masquerading as men. Your brother’s school principal once told us that their vision was to prepare the kind of men we would be proud to have as husbands to our daughters. I found that simple but thought provoking, and I have myself since committed to mentoring young men. Do not fall for any man who just shows you attention. Rather, follow the one who comes along and shows the graces that come from knowing Christ. Be attracted to tenderness, self-restraint, internal strength, consistency and sacrifice. Love the man who fears the Lord. I apologise for the incessant complaints about our young men. I regret that they often confuse lust with love. Many say that it is difficult to find a man with godly virtues, but I advise you to search for this otherwise you will spend a long time nursing a grown man. The man you should look out for should be one who cares for your needs above his own. If I am at all the man I claim to be, my display of love towards your mother should help you understand what it is I am describing. You should be able to recognize this sort of love when you see it. The man who will lay down his life for you is the type of man you can easily give your life to. The man who gives himself in sacrifice is easy to serve sacrificially.

GOD'S LOVE
I know you both respect and love me. I have been there for you both in good times and bad. However, if the truth be told, I have been working harder at directing your hearts more to God rather than to me. You may not realize it now but one day in the midst of life’s many difficulties you will recognize what I have been doing all these years. My leadership at home has been to give you a glimpse of God’s power over our lives. When those times of distress and pain come, I pray that God will steady you. I pray you will come to sense a steadfastness that you may not have sensed before. It is in those times that God’s love will be the greatest gift I would have given you in my lifetime. My own love will be overshadowed by God’s love. In those moments you will whisper, “Thank you, Daddy, God has been faithful to me. He has not left me nor ever forsaken me.”

I pray that you would not just have copied your father or mother’s faith but found the Lord Jesus as the supreme source of your own faith.

I will always be proud to be your father.

Daddy.

Dr Tony Rapu and his daughters, Uju and Kene Pic Credit: Obi Somto Photography

Pictures by Obi Somto

"Who Stole My Wedding Gown?"

"Who Stole My Wedding Gown?" Pic Credit: Unsplash

Pictures of billboards and fliers of church events with titles like “This Beautiful Sister Must Marry” or “Lord, Give Me A Wife Or I Die” have often gone viral on the Internet and generated a good laugh. “Who Stole My Wedding Gown?” was a particularly humorous one. Whether these events actually took place or what the content of those programs were is anyone’s guess. Once upon a time, churches would establish youth events to address the needs of younger members and create avenues through which their energies could be expressed. Initially, these fellowships provided a forum where basic Christian principles of life, marriage and courtship were taught. They grew out of a legitimate need to address the complex issues of relationship, marriage and family. Strangely, over the years, many of these meetings mutated to the point where they began to run as clinics to deliver their members from “the curse of singlehood” and obsess over marriage. It was marriage at any cost. Preparing people for marriage is a great thing, but an overemphasis on marriage as the sole objective of every single person is questionable and ultimately detrimental. This approach is not consistent with the biblical understanding of singlehood, or even marriage for that matter.

The idea that single adults are somehow incomplete or less whole than their married peers is false and has no basis in Christian thought. That unmarried persons have to attend night program to be ‘restored’ or delivered from enemy attacks is preposterous. Jesus Christ the founder of Christianity was a single man; Paul the Apostle, Christianity’s greatest proponent was also single. Paul’s assessment was that both singlehood and married life were good conditions to be in. He said being single was actually better in some circumstances than being married. In any case, whether single or married, only Christ can satisfy the longing in the soul for higher purpose and meaning.

We must beware the idolatry of marriage, which is the perception of marriage as the pinnacle of the Christian life and the answer to all of life’s problems. Not only does the propagation of this dangerous myth devalue singlehood, it also creates a false impression of marriage as a state of eternal fairytale bliss. Having spent their single years waiting for marriage, many then enter in entertaining delusions of ease, hoping to live with Prince or Princess Charming happily ever after. They are completely unprepared and ill equipped for the rude shock that the journey of marriage represents.

The best marriage on earth cannot fill the God-shaped vacuum in the human heart; only Christ can do that. We must therefore keep our priorities in perspective, seeking wholeness and completion first in a relationship with the Creator before building relationships with others.

We were not created for marriage; marriage was created for us. It was designed to enhance our purpose with God on earth, purpose that exists whether we are married or single.

Singleness is not a limitation or a negative thing. Marriage is good but singles should enjoy life and live it to the fullest on their way to the altar instead of bemoaning their single years.

Young people who spend their youthful days mourning over being single end up living below their potential. In fact, they unwittingly undermine the high purpose of their existence. Rather than put their lives in a state of suspended animation ‘believing God’ for this suppose ‘ultimate goal’ in life, single people should spend their time pursuing their divine purpose. This is the time to live with a sense of mission. A time to be equipped with spiritual strength. A time to acquire skills, hone gifts and discover purpose. This is the time to prepare young people to charge into various sectors of society and unleash change. We should be priming the vocational and entrepreneurial instincts of our youths for a life of excellence and maximum achievement. The season of youth is the time to clarify faith and values and deepen principles. Single years are a time to prepare for the great days that lie ahead.

#FathersDay2015: Letter To My Son

#FathersDay2015: Letter To My Son

Dr Tony Rapu with his son, Tobe Pic Credit: TY Bello

Hi son,
I remember the indescribable joy in the labour ward on the day you were born, and it seems to me that almost overnight, you have grown into a strapping young man. I have so much to say to you as you navigate your path towards manhood: what it feels like to fall in love with the woman you will marry; what it feels like to earn your first paycheck; what it feels like to buy your first house…The list of my experiences are no doubt varied and numerous, but I want to share just a few thoughts with you this Father’s Day 2015.


Be responsible
Your Mum has told you this a thousand times, and she is right – you do need to be responsible. If you’re involved in a project or activity, take the lead and act responsibly. If you make a mess, clean it up. Do the right thing. Don’t wait for someone else to take responsibility; just do it. When you disappoint those close to you, resist the urge to make excuses or blame others; take responsibility for your actions and ask for forgiveness.

Your friends
I know you love to hang out with your friends, and that’s not a bad thing. Hang out with them as much as you want to, but if your friends are doing something you know is wrong, stand your ground and do not follow. Sometimes it’s tough finding yourself alone because of the values you’ve learned from home and church, but trust me on this one – never abandon your faith or your values to follow the crowd.

Your girlfriends
With your looks and physique, it’s clear you will meet loads of girls in your life. Treat them all with dignity and respect. Care more about their inner beauty than their outward appearance. Treat their bodies, and yours, like the temples of God and don’t give in to sinful behavior. Remember to do the right thing and save yourselves for marriage. Remember how to ‘Counter-Kulture’. The world may make a mockery of your faith and values but stand for God and you will be fine. And when you do find the right girl, if she’s anything like your mum, don’t let her go.

Be authentic
Don’t ever pretend to be who you’re not. You are who God created you to be. Don’t hide from your true self, and don’t hide your faith or your beliefs from others. Stand against popular opinion when you know you should and do it every time the opportunity arises. Be the man. God’s man!

Pray often
You may find it difficult to find a church you like. That’s fine. Just remember that you are the ‘church’. Church is not necessarily a building; God is with you at all times. One of Jesus’ names is Emmanuel, which in a sense is the ‘God who hangs out with us’. So talk to Him. You don’t always have to pray with your eyes closed, hands clasped and head bowed; thinking thoughts directed to God can be prayer. Do it often and consistently.

Don’t cut corners
Don’t cut corners or take short cuts in your work or studies. Don’t look for the easy way out of problems; do that which is hard. Working hard can seem futile sometimes but there is really no substitute for hard work. Persistence pays off in the long run. And by the way, sitting near the front of the class is likely to help you pay more attention. And remember – Read! Read! Read! The more you read, the more you will know.

Live on a budget
Put yourself on a budget and resist the urge to spend beyond your budget. Keep an account of the money you’ve spent and learn to save, save, save. Prioritize what you’re spending your money on. Don’t be influenced by your friends’ spending habits. Put your spare change in a jar; it adds up. Use Skype or emails to save money on phone calls. Ask for student discounts. Book your tickets in advance. If you are disciplined and prudent, your money will work for you.

Hurts
At one point or another, you will inevitably be hurt or disappointed by people you trust. When this happens, you may want to retreat into yourself or you may want to quit, but don’t! Do what a real man does – love anyway.

Temptations
You will be tempted like you’ve never been tempted before – alcohol, drugs, sex, porn…It takes character, a whole lot of character not to succumb to these temptations. We know that you have a large reservoir of character. Don’t forget it. Tap into it every time the need arises.

Communicate
Call Mum regularly, not just when you want something. Call her just to say hello and find out how she’s doing. Trust me, this will make her very happy. Email us both from time to time. It’s a good way of honoring your parents. Remember other people’s birthdays, especially your sisters and extended family. A surprise email from you will gladden their hearts greatly.

Finally, and most importantly, I want you to know your Mum and I love you very much and we are very proud of you.

Your Dad