I was born and raised Catholic in an all-Catholic family. We went to church every week and knew to always strive to do what is right. There was a very serious problem though: I only understood things about God at a very basic level. Notably, I did not understand why God was so important and didn’t have a deep enough understanding about the importance of Jesus’ victory on the cross. I also believe I just wasn’t well-taught in Sunday School nor in my family how Jesus wants a relationship with each and every one of us; a father to child relationship. I also didn’t know that I needed to respond to that relationship. Beyond that, during all my school years (including college), my understanding of love was limited as well as immature.
Accepted into UMBC, I figured college had to be my time to shine; my time to find someone I would marry and my time to become successful. That was on my mind more than God was. I was also getting added stress from family to find someone. After all, my brother and sister went to college and during their time in college, they both found their significant others. Now, it was my turn. As I reflect on my college days however, I came to realize that in grade school and in college, with respect to things like dating, I had been progressing all that time on a thin line between lust and sensuality. I understood pornography and premarital sex were wrong in the Church, and I didn’t engage in either or these practices, but I still struggled with things like impure thoughts as well as what marriage really was.
With only a basic understanding of love and remaining mostly lukewarm in my Catholic faith, there was notably one girl I liked in college; a very westernized Korean American girl who I ended up initially liking solely for her appearance, smile, and seemingly positive outlook on life. We went our own way not only because of slight differences in our beliefs, but also because we just didn’t have anything in common (not to mention how much of a mess I was spiritually speaking). She admitted she was nothing special and that I would find someone some day. She’s married now and works as an elementary school teacher.
Shortly after that, I met ChristLife – an evangelization community that came to UMBC to administer the Discovering Christ course to the UMBC Catholic Campus Ministry (Newman Club). While this was going on, I was also part of a Japanese and English language exchange community in Maryland which I was later asked to lead and still lead to this day, encompassing the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area.
I hit a bottom while participating in ChristLife’s Discovering Christ course at UMBC. A few students on campus didn’t like how I was on campus always seeking out others either for friendship or in the case of some girls, companionship. As a result, they cyberbullied me online, mentally injuring me to the point that I got no sleep that night. Though it was thankfully the day after I was cyberbullied in which the Discovering Christ Retreat took place. It was at that retreat in which I felt I truly discovered Christ. After sharing my story with my small group leader, spending time in quiet prayer that day, and participating in the laying of hands with my small group leader, I felt the love of the Holy Spirit enter into my soul, confirming to me how real the Spirit is. The destructive words of those cyberbullies at UMBC were completely destroyed that day, and the pain and suffering I endured from that previous drama? Gone!
My life as a Catholic had started to take a turn in the right direction. I got my Masters in IT, picked up a good-paying IT job at a large company, and even got to go on a vacation to Japan. I also found out later that ChristLife had a young adult community I owed to myself to join. There was one problem still lingering though in my life, keeping me from more fully surrendering to God and experiencing the joy of conversion: I still felt some degree of insecurity with myself because I was single. There were many days I would feel lonely despite the better social circles I was in. I didn’t feel like I fit in well enough with ChristLife and feared using ChristLife as a means to seek out other single Catholic women, so I kept in mind that the community was there, but I kept telling myself I wasn’t ready. I needed to learn to make God the center of my life, and instead, the frustration of finding someone was at my center. There’s the key word there: frustration. When something other than God is at the center of our life, frustration is one of the many negative emotions we can experience next to anxiety and insecurity.
I went to Japan again for a month’s vacation. Before I went though, I decided to try my hand at online dating and met a few Japanese girls online. I went on a few dates, but all in all, things didn’t work out with any online dates, and that feeling of loneliness surely enough kicked in. I remember sitting in my homestay alone one day. I pulled out my tablet and played a Catholic hymn; Now We Remain. I sat there in silence, soaking up the words and melody of the hymn. It was a prayer to God. Before that day, I had also done a lot of praying before and after that day, praying about this trip, about my safety while I would be there, about the interactions I would have with other Japanese I would meet, and of course, about this feeling of loneliness and insecurity; that these lies would depart from me.
And behold! A few days after Christmas, I received a message on Mixi, a Japanese social networking site which I played with for a few years and then mostly ignored. I had received a message from a Japanese girl there of all places (most Mixi users I knew had migrated to Facebook). She explained to me that she found me on Mixi’s Catholic community. She was a Japanese woman living in Shizuoka who recently became a Catholic convert and was looking for an American friend around her age to practice her English with. Replying to her message as I would any other, I told her I was in Tokyo right now and asked her if it would be of interest to her if we could meet given the short time I would still be there. She gave me her number to call so we could arrange a date to meet.
After having beer and sake with my host father’s parents on New Years Day, I felt strangely confident enough (and awake still) to call the girl. I did so and we agreed to meet each other January 2, 2013. She came all the way from Shizuoka to Tokyo (about three hours) by train just to come and see me. I was two years younger than her, but little did I know (but we both figured out), that this was the Holy Spirit finally answering our call for companionship after both of us had been single for most of our lives. When I came back to the United States, we were chatting with each other via Skype and the Skype-like smartphone app LINE (very popular in Japan). We chatted with each other on a daily basis (weekends included). Never in my dating experiences had I ever chatted with a girl that frequently. Finally, on May 1, 2013, we made it official. We became boyfriend and girlfriend!
When I came back from Japan in 2013, I also started going regularly to ChristLife’s young adult meetings. I knew by now that our Lord and Savior desired a relationship with me, and I had been ignoring it for too long, making too many other things my priority, including my little quest for a mate. For at least a few months at that time, I was still single, but at least for once, I decided to be okay with it and just place those feelings of insecurity on the cross where they belonged.
As I grew into that father-son relationship though and continue to grow in it, I discover more and more that all I really wanted was real, genuine love; a love that not even friends and family had the capacity to deliver to me fully. It is a love that could only come through Jesus Christ; the Unnum Necessarium. It is this love that I was made for. It is this love that you were made for. We were made for love, and it was God who also made each and every one of us. As his children, we are made in the image of God and if we just stop and look at each other, we can see God in the life of one another.
I got engaged in December 2014, but my partner and I ended up having to break off that engagement in November 2015 as there was no grace and no support coming from either of our families to marry. She was also struggling with the possibility that St. Agnes may be calling her to consecrated life and if so, I have to respect that and let her follow her discernment. She and I are still good friends, and we recognize how much we have built each other up spiritually. I come to realize potentially why the Holy Spirit brought this woman into my life and why I was brought into her life. We met that we may be a living example of Christ for each other. We also both discerned other possible futures we could have in our lives and both concluded that the vocation to marriage was our best fit as long as we kept God at the center of our life.
We couldn’t marry, but we still maintain a friendship that we both pray will last into eternity when we will truly return home to our city of citizenship. For now though, as the singer of Casting Crowns once said, “Maybe [she and I] were never meant to be complete. Could we just be broken together?” For me, marriage will be the ultimate school of love where we are to learn how to be loving towards each other and how to pass on that love to others in the name of Jesus Christ. I firmly believe that it is through the one I ultimately marry in which I will learn to despise addictions to things that Jesus himself despised on the cross while learning to love and accept the Will of the Father.