Dear Teen Me,
So, this is going to be really hard for you to hear. But you aren’t a missionary when you grow up. In fact, you are not religious at all.
Take a deep breath. It’s gonna be okay. No, you’re not going to hell. No, Satan has
not hardened your heart, and no, you are not a sinner in the hands of an angry God. You don’t believe me, do you? You’re on your knees right now aren’t you, praying for you future self’s salvation?
Just last week you were at the mall handing out Jesus tracts and trying to explain the plan of salvation to strangers (intro: God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life!). You have a conversation with your brother who’s not a Christian and congratulate yourself for ‘planting a seed’ that God might water later. Of course, you’re too busy secretly praying for your brother’s salvation to hear anything he’s actually saying. You do that a lot. It’s heavy worrying all the time about who’s saved and who’s not.
And let’s not forget about the week-long fast. You know, that week where you didn’t let yourself eat anything. At all. You only allotted yourself juice a couple times a day, and spent the rest of the time praying, praying, praying so hard to be freed from bondage (to food) that you ignore the fact that you feel like you’re going to faint. Because, yeah, not eating for five days is actually a really bad idea.
You don’t tell anyone. But then, you’re good at that—not admitting things. Like how you can’t quite admit to yourself that you’re teetering on the edge of an eating disorder and pretending it’s spiritual discipline.
I’m sorry, I can’t explain how the religion thing falls apart. Years afterwards, I can
point out some reasons, but I still can’t explain it all—except to say that when your faith cracks, it just keeps on crumbling till it’s gone. And you’re okay. You’re actually a far better, happier, and more compassionate human in the world afterward.
‘Cause you wanna know something? Even now while you’re so full of self-doubt and
secretly damning people around you, you’re also far more awesome than you realize.
Like the time you stop your car on the drive home from school to look at that flower
you’ve been driving by the past few weeks—the one with the giant pure-white petals
that was only a blur but always caught your attention. So strange to see on the otherwise brown, dry Texas roadside! Eventually one day you stop the car and get out to stare and smell and touch the velvety petals. You’re so curious and delighted by the world around you. You watch sunsets with your breath held. You take walks at night and watch armadillos running across silent streets.
Hold on to that wonder and delight in beauty. Your future might go in different directions than you intend now, but sometimes, the unexpected is the best place to be.
Heather Anastasiu is the author of the young adult sci-fi novel, GLITCH (St. Martin’s Press/Spring 2012). She recently moved to Minneapolis with her son, and when she’s not busy getting lost exploring the new city, she spends most days writing at a café. Visit her at www.heatheranastasiu.com or on Twitter @h_anastasiu