Spiritually Stagnant

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together,” Hebrews 10: 24-25

I’ve been all over the place emotionally, recently. It seems like every week, I’m recounting a different tearful episode.

And I think it’s because my life is out of balance.

One thing that I’ve learned in the 15 years I’ve been in recovery from anorexia, is that balance is not just important, but absolutely necessary.

It's easy to feel alone as a Christian in NYC. And that isolation often leads to spiritual stagnation. The antidote is a lot simpler than one might think. #catholic #faith #god #community #nyc #jesus #christianity #life #mentalhealth #spirituality

Working hard professionally, spending time with loved ones and friends in a social setting, getting enough sleep, being nutritionally sound, getting some movement in every day, spending time with God, and spending time alone to recharge — these are my factors that all need to be in balance to thrive.

And as much as I hate to admit it…it is the spiritual spoke on my “wheel of balance” that is off-kilter.

Living in New York City is really hard as a Christian, I’m not going to lie. Because unless you specifically seek other Christians out, 99% of the people you’re interacting with don’t share your faith.

And to be honest, particularly in the aftermath of Roe being overturned, I’ve been feeling incredibly spiritually isolated, with no Christian community to surround myself with, other than my dear fiancé.

During the pandemic when we weren’t going to physical Mass, we would attend Fr. Mike Schmitz’ virtual mass online, and he is such an incredible homilist, that we felt that literally, every sermon was written just for us, and what we were going through that day.

So though we were not physically in community, we were getting deeply spiritually fed, just through an powerful message that really hit home, every single time.

But since returning to in-person church, I’m going to be honest…I have never felt so distant from God. And I know, that’s on me: it’s what you put into worship, not what you get out of it. But the truth of the matter is that I’ve been going to churches that feel like they’re red-lining. Big, beautiful churches, practically empty, with maybe 10-15 other worshippers on Sunday morning, during the “primetime mass.” Everyone is wearing masks and socially distancing, so you just feel like no one is really there with you.

And it doesn’t help that the last several homilies have been a from traveling priest asking for money to fund overseas missions.

It just is so spiritually unfulfilling. And much like the churches on life support, I feel that my Christian fervor is also slowly dying.

And I can see it play out in my life. I’m more anxious and insecure. My outlook has been incredibly negative recently, which is a hugely unattractive tendency. I’m stressed about money. And feeling the need to control my future instead of trusting on the Lord.

I’m just…out of balance.

So, last night, I went to my old parish by my house. My fiancé was out of town this weekend, and so I went to the young adult mass that I had gone to ever since I moved to New York City in 2011.

It was the first time I had been back since the pandemic.

And when I tell you — it was full to the brim. Absolutely standing-room-only, with none other than young people, my age, all there to worship and be in fellowship at the free wine and cheese gathering afterwards.

But it was so powerful, being in that room, surrounded by the most amazing contemporary choir, singing moving, beautiful music, with everyone singing along. My spirit was truly so moved. It felt like I could finally breathe. Like for the first time the room was full of oxygen.

And I thought to myself — this is how God intends His children to live: in community with fellow believers. It is not good to people to be alone on a spiritual desert island. Community is so important.

But that wasn’t the only revelation I had at Mass that day.

Call me idiosyncratic, but in all the 10 years I have been going to church there, I would always sit in the same exact pew every time — or at least try to. This is a pretty typical “church attendant-practice,” and I definitely adhere to it. And last night was no different.

There I was, sitting on the aisle, fourth row, right side, in front of the choir. And being in that same spot, hearing the same familiar church songs, smelling the incense — I was having just the most vivid memories. It was like I was transported to being back there in that same place, ten years prior, also alone. And I just remember sitting there, and pouring my heart out to God, praying — nay, pleading — for Him to bring a good Catholic man into my life. I would get dressed up every Sunday to sit on the aisle in the desperate hopes that God would plant a nice young man right across the aisle from me.

I remember being so sad at times, feeling so hopeless, so alone, longing so deeply to find a mate.

And that’s when it hit me yesterday: God gave me everything I always prayed for. Looking down at that sparkly rock on my finger, I realized that the life I have right now is the answer to my prayers, and more.

It's easy to feel alone as a Christian in NYC. And that isolation often leads to spiritual stagnation. The antidote is a lot simpler than one might think. #catholic #faith #god #community #nyc #jesus #christianity #life #mentalhealth #spirituality

At this very moment in Mass, the choir was singing the most beautiful acoustic guitar song, and the lyrics were: “You alone are all I need, for you hold my destiny.”

And hearing that, I had a few tears stream down my cheeks.

God has never let me down in my life. From rescuing me from the depths of my anorexia, to healing my ulcerative colitis, to bringing this incredible man into my life, God has proven over and over that I can trust Him totally and completely. So why, then, should my future be any different?

I have so many fears and apprehensions about this and that, but God holds my destiny. God knows the plan already, and it is good. It will be beautiful and exactly right.

God loves to delight His children, and I need to surrender my heart to that truth.

But anywho…

It is amazing the power of a full, alive church, and a heart that is open and willing to listen for His still, small voice.

It's easy to feel alone as a Christian in NYC. And that isolation often leads to spiritual stagnation. The antidote is a lot simpler than one might think. #catholic #faith #god #community #nyc #jesus #christianity #life #mentalhealth #spirituality

Until Wednesday…

How are churches where you live? Are they full? Are they floundering? Let me know!

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51 responses to “Spiritually Stagnant”

  1. I totally get what you are feeling, I have felt much the same. Churches here are a little bit of both – some are emptying out and distant but I have found one that is so vibrant, full of all generations worshipping the Lord and longing to be filled. It’s beautiful. So glad you were encouraged and able to experience that again.. it is like water to our soul!! And I know it’s hard to be light in the darkness, when it feels like no one shares your faith – I think stepping back into worship times like that is an oasis to remind you that you are part of the body of Christ – the international one – that God is still moving and you are part of His story in this time and this place and YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE 🙂 Hugs my sister in Christ!

  2. This is so wonderful, Caralyn! I’m glad that you went back to that church and that the man of your dreams is in your life. I have attended a large, 5000 member church here on and off since the divorce in 2016, we used to attend that church when married. Today, that same church doesn’t seem to be spritually filling, hence I have stopped going to church. I should try returning to a local baptist church, I was baptised in a Baptist church in Michigan decades ago.

  3. Seek Him with all your heart & you will find him. Talk to Him. Do not be distracted by anything. Be still and know that He is God.

  4. Our church is full. We only shut down a few weeks during the start of it and have been together since. It makea all the difference. We are meant to be in a body, a community worshipping one Savior together and serving together. A good way to get back in tune is to read one chapter of Psalms or Proverbs a day and tell Jesus about your day and concerns and then how good He is. Works after a couple weeks and then keep on going. Love you as always, my beautiful friend. Hugs! XO😃❤️

  5. Hi, great post! I’m glad you found a full mass. Unfortunately, this is happening nationwide across many denominations. The church I attend in Western PA had 58 people at our church service as 2 large families moved away. It’s difficult, but I firmly believe that we need to shine our inner light, meaning the light of Christ, to hopefully guide people to our Savior.

  6. I teach a children’s liturgy once a month and faith formation classes and those little hearts and beautiful little minds of wonder revive me and truly keep me excited and wanting to give of His love. These children and my own show me the heart of the Father in such a beautiful way. It keeps me going when I get in those slumps.

  7. Lord your post! We live in a tiny rural community, but for the first time in our nearly 25 years of marriage, we are surrounded by believers (neighbors nextdoor, across the street and across the pasture all are believers) and our church is a incredible blessing. We’ve lived in spiritual isolation, where the population is far removed from knowledge of God, much less worshipping Him. It can feel very lonely indeed. Yet, one of the biggest complements I have ever received was when we lived in that setting. Just before we moved away our neighbors asked us over and at dinner the wife said, “What you believe makes you happy. I have watched you. I have no idea what I believe, but I’m not happy. Tell me about what you believe.” I pray you have some of these same opportunities in your life. ❤️

  8. Thanks for being honest and for encouraging us all with your personal answers to prayer! I’m doing a Vacation Bible School for my grandkids all this week and my daughter, similar to you in her faith walk, inspires me- amazing mom!! Just want to encourage you by letting you know that the music I chose is all from Ellie Holcomb’s Sing album. You led me to her music, thank you!

  9. This really made me smile. Glad you got to experience that.

    About a year ago, my complicated church situation was about to get even more complicated, and I spent most Sunday mornings in the summer of 2021 alone at home with my Bible, not really even trying to look for a church anymore. Churches were open in person again, so I took a few weeks to visit a few churches where I knew people, not looking for a new home, just looking for something while I was a church free agent. The first week I drove 26 miles to the next county and the church I went to as a new Christian in my early 20s (the one that “J-Cov” from my blog is based on). It felt so good to be back there, worshiping with others again. And there are a few people left there who I still know, 20 years later. They moved to a larger building shortly after I left, and they had the chairs more spread out than usual because COVID restrictions are still really popular there, so I didn’t get the experience of sitting in my old seat, like you did, but it didn’t matter.

    I don’t feel like going back there full time is really the best way to resolve my complicated church situation. They’re in a university town that can be rather insular, not really a place for a commuter, and I feel like I want to be part of a church closer to home. I have been going to a church closer to home regularly since last fall, but I don’t really fit in at churches closer to home… that’s another story, though.

    • THanks for sharing that, Greg – i’ll be praying for that situation to resolve for you. i definitely feel you – feeling like an outsider at church is not a great feeling — plus being closer to home is always nice, and may lead to friendships in your area you didn’t know were available! hang in there! Hugs and love xox

    • oh gosh, i’m so sorry to hear that. you’re right – fellowship is important, and can be hard to find! Hugs and love xox

  10. Sometimes you have to look around for different churches to find the one that fits you the best. Then get involved somehow like going to a prayer group, Bible study or partake in being a volunteer. Talk to others that share your faith and then you’ll have friends that you can potentially count on.

    Its important now more than ever considering what’s been happening in the world. You might also feel disconnected because a lot may change or not. We don’t know yet but a lot of people are getting worried over what can come. We’re in a spiritual battle with evil and this is more of a reason we need to unite.

    • You’re right – there will be one that “clicks” for sure. And you’re right – community involvement has to include…involvement!! i am definitely going to start going to that wine and cheese gathering afterwards! and so true – a spiritual battle indeed. Hugs and love xox

    • you’re right about that. there are a lot of distractions! thank you kenneth! Hugs and love xox

  11. Living in a tourist town, it was very strange to see the church nearly empty when things first opened back up. Now, summer Mass is standing room only again. It seems that people are finally returning to the world and to church. Either, way, God is there. Whether the church is full, or you are the only person in attendance, God is present and waiting for you.

    • standing room only!! oh that is so terrific! and you’re right – God is always present. Something important to remember 🙂 Hugs and love xox

  12. Thank you for your testimony. This season has been difficult. The loss of community has been the worst. I have felt spiritually distant from God also, but remembering his promises and remembering how in my life he has continued to keep them has been my anchor. God will keep his remnant. We are not and never have been alone.

    • thank you so much my friend. that loss of community really is the worst. praying for you, my friend. Amen – We are not alone! Hugs and love xox

  13. I’m so glad you had such a beautiful experience in the midst of your loneliness. The Bible says God sets the lonely in families. It sounds like he did that for you this weekend – and reminded you of your family to come too! I can’t imagine living in NY. Never been there, but I have friends from there who say it has changed so much over the past couple of years. I live in Florida and our church only shut down briefly and moved to online during that time. It seems like masks were so long ago now, even though a few people still wear them on occasion. Our church has exploded, and we opened a 3rd location last year that is growing so fast. Hundreds of people are more engaged in every way. In the midst of the world’s mess, people are hungry for answers and we lead them to Jesus. We’re set to open a 4th location in the spring. I’m glad we also still have our online services for people who can’t participate in person or who still feel hesitant to. I’ve been there. We include them in the service by addressing them specifically and live chat. I love my church and pastors at Next Level Church in Fort Myers, FL. I also watch some other teachers online as well during the week. One of my favorites is in my home state of CA. Bethel Church in Redding, CA. Church is awesome and so necessary, but daily spending time in the word and worship takes me into God’s presence and keeps me grounded. Praise God that you have found some more of that solid ground this week. I’m praying for you!

    • Thank you for this, Laura. That’s amazing that you’re church is expanding like that! praise God! I’m so glad you have that community. so beautiful. and you’re right- it is so necessary. i appreciate you! Hugs and love xox

  14. Church is so vital to Christian well-being and assurance. It’s a reminder that, while WE as individuals haven’t overcome this fallen world, our precious Lord to whom we belong HAS. And the gates of hell will not stand against His church. It is our refuge. God bless you.

    • You’re so right, Rollie — it is vitallllll! and our refuge against the storms of this life. I appreciate this perspective! Hugs and love xox

  15. Dear Caralyn,
    Anita and I still go online to our fellowship (FAClex.com) because of the crowds! We enjoy being able to control the volume on the songs, as the band tends to be pretty loud, but our pastors’ sermons are usually uplifting and challenging.
    One of our senior pastor’s “mantras” before beginning his homily each Sunday is to welcome visitors and note that “if FAC is not your home church, be sure you have a church where Jesus is worshiped and the Gospel is preached.” (or something close to that)
    But when we watch, the auditorium that seats about 450 is mostly full for all three Sunday morning meetings, and most churches in Lex. including the Catholic ones, are pretty full from what we have seen in the parking lots!
    That said, recognize that if you feel you belong in NY, consider yourself a significant missionary! Pray and be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit for “God-moments,” where Father places you within reach of someone who needs His light and word, and YOU are the messenger, the announcer of His good news, that He loves and can transform the broken, depressed, lonely, disenfranchised, addicted into whole celebrants of LIFE because of what Jesus did on the Cross!
    “Jesus is the answer for the world today’ above Him there’s no other; Jesus is the Way!”
    ❤️& 🙏, c.a.

    • that is a great mantra that your pastor says — it is the key to a fruitful walk with Christ! Thank you CA, for this beautiful wisdom -you’re right, i need to be praying for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And you’re right – I hadn’t thought about being a missionary in the city, but there really is something to that. you’re a great friend, CA – thank you! Hugs and love xox

  16. Beautifully written as usual! I am blessed to be part of a large and still growing church. Sadly, many churches regularly fail, even in a Bible Belt state. I could write a long dissertation on why that is the case, but the important point is there are still believers like you and your believing followers.

    On a more personal note, your post reminded me of something I wrote eight years ago. I found myself spiritually isolated, even though I was in seminary, actively involved in my church, and thought of by some as a lay leader in some areas. In my case, there was no real excuse other than backsliding and ego. Here is an excerpt from the piece:

    “I was empty. I was alone. It was as if my home office and I had been whisked to some far-off location, a location with no living soul for miles. I could hear my wife downstairs, but I was totally alone. I realized I had not felt this alone for years. Not only was I alone, I was afraid.”

    If you want to slog through the whole piece sometime, here is the link. https://sinnerswalk.com/2014/07/28/wandering-into-the-thorns/

    • Thank you so much Eric for this beautiful response. I look forward to reading the whole piece. So true – sometimes we have to examine our ego! Hugs and love xox

  17. I have learned that I am responsible for my spiritual growth and commitment to worship. I need to spend time with God, in His Word. I can play my favorite worship songs on the piano on sing along with a video. Whatever I get at church is like the whip cream on top. I need to make a point to gather with like minded friends to fellowship and pray for each other.

    Discovering what you need to have balance… sometimes it even means big changes.

    • Thank you Linda! You’re so right – i am responsible for that and need to make it a point, intentionally! Hugs and love xox

      • I hope you didn’t think I was scolding–just the opposite. Encouraging you to keep seeking a closer walk with God. Thank you for your transparency.

      • I gotcha! I didn’t take it that way at all! i agree! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  18. Faith is hard to have. It finds those who are willing to leap into it in the most trialing of times. Gratitude is finding beauty and joy beyond the leap, counting your blessings over your burdens… Thank you for the good read.

    • You’re right about that – gotta count the blessings over the burdens! thank you! Hugs and love xox

  19. “Everything looks like failure in the middle.” Rose Kantor

    It sounds like you are in such a middle place right now, Caralyn. You are poised to make probably the biggest change in your whole life—marrying the man God brought to you. Of course, the forces of evil (Satan and his demon buddies) don’t want this to happen. You may well be under spiritual attack. If so, you did the right thing by going to the church in your neighborhood—to seek Christian fellowship. 🙏For you and your special gentleman. May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face shine upon you. And give you peace.

    • Wow, this is such a powerful response. you’re so right, David…I had not thought about that – but you’re right – this is prime time for being a target for spiritual warfare. Because what does the enemy hate above all else? Families. Dang. Thank you for opening my eyes, and for your prayers. Hugs and love xox

  20. I was all cued up to comment, but luckily read David’s reply first. He said exactly what was on my heart, far better than I. The only thing I would add is…keep going back. Despite the discouragement, despite the desolation keep returning to Worship Him. And perhaps you and Stephen should pray about continuing to attend this particular Mass…where you both can be filled up and built up, as Satan mounts his attack. Hugs and prayers sent your way as always, dear friend. 😘

  21. Thank you for this. For about the last year I have been struggling. I feel adrift at my own parish and more often than not find an excuse to go elsewhere to a mass at a more convenient time or place, where I can be Anonymous Church Guy. And you want to know the funny part? My oldest kid was ordained as a priest a little over a year ago. I guess it’s good that he’s stationed a couple hundred miles away so my struggling is not on full display to him.
    I know what I need to do – lean in and make exclusive time for God. The problem is doing it. Let’s pray for each other.

  22. You aren’t alone. I think in part it may be the attitude of those around, the media or the applaud of immoral acceptance that is overwhelming at times and we are all crying out in pain and discouragement. People telling us we are slaves and being held captive for believing. It was predicted and we are seeing it play out. I feel it too and each time I turn on the TV and begin to watch the lauded shows as they try to reform our sense of what morality is according to woke. It’s a bitter pill to swallow.

  23. I want to correct the title of our group as it may be confusing since the letters are KWA. which stands for Kingdom Writers Association. since some may have thought it was Christian with a K, which it is not. Sorry.

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