Without question, one of my favorite movie trilogies of all time is Back to the Future. How can you not love Marty McFly, Doc Brown and that awesome DeLorean with the flux capacitor that requires 1.21 gigawatts of power to travel through time? The flaming tire tracks? The Huey Lewis soundtrack? And of course, the lovably dense villain of the story, Biff Tannen.
For all of its fun, though, the Back to the Future trilogy asks a genuinely intriguing question. What would happen if you could change the past?
In the first movie Marty tries to do something good by knocking his dad out of the path of a speeding car, but accidentally prevents his parents from meeting and falling in love. The rest of the film is the story of Marty setting things right.
In the second movie, elderly Biff steals the time machine and goes back to the fifties to try to help his younger self get rich by using a sports almanac from the future. Wealthy Biff then turns Marty’s world upside down, and, once again, the rest of the movie tells the story of Marty setting things right.
How about you? If you could go back in time to help your younger self, what would you do? What mistake would you prevent or what opportunity would you take? What kind of advice would you give yourself?
If I only knew then what I know now . . . then what? Would you have taken the job? Played more with your kids? Forgiven quicker? Stuck with your spouse? Asked for help? Exercised? Thrown away the cigarettes? Laughed more? Relaxed and just enjoyed the moment? What would have it been for you?
Unfortunately, DeLoreans are hard to come by these days, and plutonium powered flux capacitors are even rarer still. So giving your past self advice is going to be tough to pull off.
But, you can send a message to the future.
Earlier this week I sent Future Jason his first e-mail at www.futureme.org. Here’s how it works. You go to the website. Type in your e-mail address. Write yourself a message and then date it to be delivered to yourself at least 30 days in the future. You can set it for months or even years from now.
Imagine getting an e-mail from yourself next year that says, “Hey, how’s the new exercise routine going? Remember how scared you were at doctor the other day?” Or how about, “Have you quit that dead-end job yet? How long until you chase your dreams?” Or maybe, “Lighten up. It’s not as bad as you think.”
Future Me allows us to preserve our greatest life lessons we learn in the moment and pass them on to ourselves for future benefit. I don’t know about you, but I tend to do the same dumb things over and over again. Say yes to too many people. Neglect my health. Stress over things that don’t really matter. In the short term I realize my foolishness and vow not to fall back into the same old pattern, but before I know it, I do it again.
But that was before I had the help from Past Jason. Now Past Jason can e-mail Future Me all sorts of advice, encouragement, Bible verses and cool stuff God’s teaching me so that I don’t lose the wisdom I need in the busyness of everyday life. How powerful would it be remind ourselves of the truths we already know?
The Bible says, “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.” How many times have I been totally freaked out about my circumstances, only to see God come through and save the day? Armed with these reminders from the past, I will have a much easier time facing the uncertain circumstances of my future.
In fact, I think I’ll even send myself this column. So, Future Jason, you handsome devil, if you’re out there listening, (wearing your silver jumpsuit and flying to work with your jetpack, no doubt), don’t forget to stop and learn from your past. Remember what already know, and take that wisdom into the future and beyond.