Reflecting Back at the Grotto

Reflecting Back at the Grotto

I only graduated from the University of Notre Dame last week. On the night before I took the flight over to Spain, my girlfriend Grace and I decided to visit the grotto on campus one last time, which is a huge tradition at the university and a seemingly good idea for me since I was about to embark on a six-month trip.

We rode our bikes into campus to take a break from our crazy packing. At around midnight, we arrived at the grotto. The whole campus seemed dead but there were still 2-3 people always around at the grotto. As soon as we got there, Grace insisted that we first kneel down and pray before lighting a candle. And so we did.

Prayer

This was the first time I had been to the grotto in a very long time. I don’t exactly remember when I visited it last. I knelt down, already somewhat emotional about leaving the campus, my friends, school, and Grace, and put my hands together. I tried to take my mind off of Grace, who was kneeling only a few feet away from me.

Somehow, in the midst of keeping up with school, boxing, and friends, it had been a long time since I had actually knelt down purposely, put myself in the right posture and given a silent, dedicated prayer like this. Even the times in mass weren’t long or silent enough because I’d always join in with the choir as soon as I got back from taking the Eucharist. Immediately, I began to weep. Perhaps they were emotional tears, or guilty tears for slacking off on my relationship with God, or happy tears for having come this far. I think it was a huge combination of all of those because the tears kept coming out and I started to shake a little. I tried my best to keep myself silent and still so that Grace wouldn’t have to see, but my body was heating up and I felt overwhelmed by how lucky I was, how much God loved me.

It had dawned on me, that God was always so closely watching after me and taking care of me. He has such big plans for me and only from “a distance”, I had finally realized how far I had come and that God was leading me the whole time.

Looking Back

As I prayed, I looked back on how sad, depressed, devastated, hurt, and lonely I had felt last semester due to a breakup. Probably one of the lowest lows I had felt in such a long time. My heart was broken and all I wanted from God, was peace in my heart. I remember crying out to him in my journals, in my prayers, and even out loud, and God would always give me a little bit of peace on those days, to get by. As things in my life started to get a little better, the more distracted and content I became and the less I began to reach out to God. I was constantly falling into this cycle of only seeking the Lord when I was most desperate. And now, the day after graduation, as I began to reflect upon it all, I finally saw how much my loving God had blessed me with. He healed my heart with the most beautiful, sweet-hearted, strong, talented, and loving woman Grace. I know people who may never get the chance to meet such a decent person. He gave me immediate support at school through my close friends like Joey and sisters Myungeun and Eunhae. My siblings and parents back home were also reaching out to me constantly. He helped me stay somewhat focused and complete my degree, finally after 5 years, in a career field that I was born to be in.

Abundance

I remember last semester, in the midst of the sad breakup, all I asked from God was some peace. I cried out to him to just give me peace. I didn’t ask for another girl, I didn’t ask for feelings of happiness or distractions. I only asked him for peace in my heart so I wouldn’t have to feel so lonely and hurt. And yet, with only a month before graduation, I found myself crossing paths with this amazing girl who swept me off my feet and gave me a chance to love her back. By graduation day, I’m crazy about this girl who I had technically known for two years, but only recently got the chance to bond with. I feel so blessed and grateful for the gift that God has given me. He didn’t just answer my prayer, he gifted me the opportunity to have another shot with someone even better. Someone who is everything I had been looking for.

The Dream

Then I remembered two years ago, when I had a random dream about transferring to Notre Dame. It was my second semester in Mexico and there was almost no reason for me to even consider thinking about transferring to Notre Dame. My brother Inoh had tried every semester and never been even remotely successful. But out of the blue, one random night in February, I have a dream that I am walking through the snowy sidewalks of Notre Dame (even though it was sunny in Mexico) and I am talking to one of the advisors about transferring over. This dream was the seed that was planted inside of me, that eventually led me to transfer to Notre Dame as an industrial design major. The dream helped me find a major I never knew existed, a major that seemed like a match made in heaven for my skills, interests, talents, and aspirations. The dream allowed me compete in boxing at Notre Dame and spend two years going to school with my siblings again. The dream brought me opportunities to connect with Godly and talented men like Justin Schneider who invited me on this Kingdom Journeys mission and inspired me as a designer. The dream brought me my first girlfriend and devastating breakup. But in the end, the dream brought me to Grace Hartman, who I am now crazy about and thankful for. Even a few months ago, if you asked me why I thought I had the dream to transfer over to Notre Dame, I would’ve given a lame response like, “oh, it helped me discover industrial design” and part of me would’ve doubted that it was a God-sent dream. But now I can see it. God has a plan for me. He had one all along. He has been wanting to show me many things through my two years of experience at Notre Dame. Now, from “afar”, I can look back and see it all.

Watching Over Me

It gave me so much peace and joy in my heart to know that God was watching out for me, taking care of me so closely like a father, as usual. Even though the whole Kingdom Journey’s thing could seem so overwhelming and far off to me as I was finishing school, now I am convinced and convicted that I am once again, on the right track because my God is watching over me with a specific plan in mind. I don’t know exactly what he has in store for me, but two years ago I took a leap of faith and trusted in God and a dream and came to Notre Dame. Now, I am going to trust him again and go on this 6 month mission-business trip and maybe a few years later, I will see again why God had spoken to me about it in the first place.

I ended the prayer with special intentions for each of my siblings and parents and Grace and her family. I thought about the friends I was leaving and the new ones I would be making in the next few months. I am confident that my God is behind this. I am so grateful for the beautiful woman he has placed before me and I hope with all my heart to be able to keep her and be the man the she deserves.After we both lit the candles and sat on a bench, she asked me about my prayer, and I shared with her everything, once again in tears. She then shared with me a letter she had 3 page hand-written for me, and it made my heart melt and my eyes swell with tears again.

Over and over, I have seen in my life a God who has been fighting for me since day 1. Though I may sway back and forth and have my ups and downs, by the time I roll around and cry out for God, there he is, same as ever, always there for me. One thing I do know is that his love is unfailing and consistent. Thank you so much God for always being there for me as a loving father. I trust in you and your plans for me.