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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pictures by Obi Somto