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My wife is a recent convert to the Catholic Church from nondenominational Christianity, so we’re spending a lot of time learning about Church history, the lives of saints and various theological topics. It’s been edifying to see the faith in a fresh way through her eyes. Right now, we’re building on the fundamentals: learning prayers, incorporating the liturgical calendar into our daily lives, going to Mass together — followed by coffee and grocery shopping. We’ve also really enjoyed praying the rosary together, as it is comforting for her and contemplative for me. We’ve done several novenas together and find ourselves constantly asking the saints for their intercession.

Sometimes, it’s hard to believe how open she is to all of this. All of my previous relationships have unintentionally been with non-Catholics, and conversations about faith have been met with indifference or confrontation. Admittedly, I was secretly hoping for the other’s conversion in the past. This time around, I realized that you can’t force one’s relationship with God to grow in a certain way, just like you can’t force a tree to grow faster or slower. My wife was the one who first suggested we go to Mass together, and she was the one who decided to become Catholic. I deeply appreciate her curiosity and respect as she continues to affirm her faith.


The last fight we had was during our recent honeymoon to Hawaii. There was literally trouble in paradise. We just finished a gorgeous, hour-long hike that led to a waterfall and swimming hole. I wanted to jump into the pool and hang out longer, and she wanted to leave because it was a lot more crowded than we anticipated. Our differing opinions on how to spend that time, and our inability to communicate them clearly instead of expecting the other person to psychically know the intentions of the other, led to sarcastic comments, hurt feelings and an awkward and quiet hour-long hike back to our car. It’s crazy how something so small can cause beauty to turn.

In situations like these, I know that I need some time. She’s come to understand this as well, so we don’t always try to resolve things right away. Whether it’s a few hours or the day after, I eventually realize that we are on the same team, and that it doesn’t serve us or those around us to cultivate division on our “team.” After getting back to our hotel, we were able to share everything we were feeling without holding back, made necessary apologies, and learned a bit more about how we can continue to be better for each other.


I am a recovering workaholic. I think that stems from a variety of things: being abandoned by my father at a young age, immigrating to the U.S. and trying to fit in and living within a society that highly values production and accumulation. All of this has led to coping mechanisms that favored hard work, achievement and perfection. Growing up, I equated the absence of my father with the lie that I wasn’t good enough for him to stay, and I worked with dogged determination to become someone that others would deem worthy enough to stay for. At one point in my life, I was juggling so many jobs and other commitments that I was only getting three to four hours of sleep a night. This was not selfless, it was selfish. I needed to be needed, and this ego-driven need led to numerous burnouts, negative health effects, subpar work and ironically … viewing the value of others by what they do, what they have and how they can benefit me on my insatiable quest to prove that I’m worth it.

It took all of that to help me release my grip on the idea that I just wasn’t good enough. Slowly but surely, I began to believe that no amount of work or achievement could add to the masterpiece God had already created in me. I know this is an ongoing work, but seeing myself and others through this new value system has humbled me greatly. I know my limits, I rely on the help of others, and the occasional late nights and sacrifices are driven by love for others, not for myself.

In approaching balance between work and life now, I try not to prioritize my schedule, but to schedule my priorities. There are a handful of practices and rituals that keep me operating at my best, and I work hard to prioritize them. Some of these include prayer, journaling, goal setting, exercise, making time for relationships and intentionally nonproductive play.


While I feel unqualified to answer this question, the vocational trajectory of my own life has always been unbelievably providential and perfect in its timing.

Here are some insights I’ve gained along the way:

  • Our main vocation is to love and be loved. We don’t need a job title, state in life or zeroes in a bank account to do this well.
  • Being honest with ourselves about what truly gives us life and energy is a good step in doing work that makes us fulfilled, and contributes to society at large.
  • “Inspiration is good, but action is better.” No amount of journaling, prayer or indulgent self-discovery experiences will produce much fruit if they aren’t backed up by action. Start small if you must, but start.
  • Don’t worry so much about timing. Some figure out their vocation at 16, while others discover it at 40. If you work hard, nurture curiosity, are authentically yourself and become radically open to God’s will for your life, things will happen exactly when they need to.
  • Our vocations should sanctify us, and improve the lives of others. We usually look for a career or vocational path based on how it can give us the life we want and desire. But if we frame our search differently, asking how what we do can benefit others, I truly believe it will give us more satisfaction and creative energy.


I usually let life unfold the mystery. I don’t think that some questions are meant to be answered by an afternoon of research. They can only make sense through the living of life which is black, white and the many shades of gray in between. A great talk or book may help us gain head knowledge on a particular teaching, but it may take a lifetime to understand it in our hearts.

God’s grace and mercy is something I believe works in this way. When I read about the outrageous generosity of God, it disrupts the perfect system of justice I’ve established for my relationship with him; when I’m good, I deserve love — when I’m not, I don’t. Working in youth ministry and Catholic education for the past 15 years, I’ve sang, given talks and counseled others on the boundless mercy of Christ, but never truly accepted it for myself until recent events broke down my unbelief.

Several years ago, I was in a relationship that included every high and every low. This relationship became the vehicle for years of unspoken hurt and childhood issues to surface. Having someone who knew me deeply put such an intimate, real and rather ugly mirror of all my flaws for me to see, made me do and say things that I was not proud of. Our ability to hurt each other made me believe I was unworthy of love, and the years following that relationship were filled with choices that would confirm this belief. But grace broke through in an unexpected way when I met my wife. I have never before experienced the kind of unconditional love that she shows me, and it helps me understand in a tangible way, the love and mercy of God. Despite their pain, my previous relationships have been some of my greatest teachers. I intend to never forget the lessons they’ve taught me as I live the sacrament of marriage with my wife.


This happens more often than I’d like, but like most emotions, I let myself feel it fully. Some thoughts that surface can include, but are not limited to: “They’re not even that good, why are they so successful?” or, “I will never be as good as them, I should just give up.” And this is a big one, “Why does God allow them to succeed and not me?” These thoughts are silly and embarrassing but honest.

After sitting with it for a while, some sobering and beneficial realizations usually surface. First, I need to remember that as a steward of the talents and gifts given to me, I am using them for the benefit of the world, rather than the benefit of my ego. Jealousy is born when we assume that we cannot or do not have something that others can and do have. But this mind-set of scarcity doesn’t align with a God that is abundant. One look at the diversity in nature points to a God that gets carried away with extravagant abundance. The art and the ministry that get birthed through me can be just as sacred and fruitful as the work that comes from others. If we are creating for the kingdom, wouldn’t we want thousands and thousands of incredible people, doing incredible things for God? Secondly, healthy jealousy and competition aren’t always bad things. Seeing great work always inspires me, prevents laziness and motivates me to create at the highest levels.

Joe Kim is a graphic design teacher at a Catholic high school and the founder of PAL Campaign, a Catholic apparel, gifts and accessories shop (PALCampaign.com). He lives in Los Angeles with his wife.