While thoughts and resolutions for the year ahead are crossing many of our minds, Matt Sly and Jay Patrikios are still thinking 30 years into the future. Sly and Patrikios are the minds behind the 2002 website “Future Me” that allows people to send messages to themselves years or decades from the time they were written. In the year 2015, a man named Adam is set to get an e-mail from himself that asks, “Do you still write? Do you still draw? Does Radio Shack still exist?” Sly explains the rationale: “We want people to think about their future and what their goals and dreams and hopes and fears are. We’re trying to facilitate some serious existential pondering.”(1)
A quick overview of some of the publicly-posted messages shows people doing just that. Some are pondering dreams they hope to have accomplished by the time they hear from themselves in the future: “I hope you are moving up in your job… I also hope you are making more responsible choices.” Others are taking it as a moment to remind themselves what they were up to years earlier or record what they hope will be beyond them in the future: “I hope you’re better because as I’m writing this letter, you’re doing terrible.” It is a time capsule wrought in an e-mail, readily drawing in participants all over the world. At the very least, it extracts in many a sense of intrigue. At most, sending words to future selves seems to draw a sense of nostalgia, accountability, apprehension, or hope.
I used to keep a journal that mostly held thoughts and events consumed with present days. I seemed most prone to write in it when something was happening or had just happened, when something was on my mind or on my heart at present. But there is one page far in the back that differentiated from the others. In scattered sentences now crammed on a page full of thoughts I speak to days far ahead of me: “Remember that you wanted to be the kind of woman that grows old gracefully.” “If you ever become a parent, I hope you will be the kind who can say ‘I’m sorry.’” “When it’s time to let go of certain freedoms, take it with poise.” “If it’s ever your turn to face disease, remember that you wanted to do it with faith; you wanted death never to scare you more than resurrection gives you hope.” While I like to think of these mental notes as prayers for the future—and many of them are—many of them more closely resemble a listing of fears, an anxious warning at what I might forget or what might go wrong. Though I am looking ahead, it is as if I am still looking behind me.
In an essay titled “Please Shut This Gate” English author F.W. Boreham describes signs carefully placed by landowners throughout the landscape of New Zealand. “Please shut this gate,” was a message one could read often throughout his countryside, signs placed by fence owners intent on keeping some things from wandering away and some things from wandering in. Depicting this common scene, Boreham then draws a parallel to the importance of shutting similar gates in our own lives, closing the door that keeps things both in and out. He writes, “[W]hen Israel escaped from Babylon, and dreaded a similar attack from behind, the voice divine again reassured them. ‘I, the Lord thy God, will be thy rearguard’ (Isaiah 58:8). There are thousands of things behind me of which I have good reason to be afraid; but it is the glory of the Christian evangel that all the gates may be closed. It is grand to be able to walk in green pastures and beside still waters unafraid of anything that I have left in the perilous fields behind me.”(2)
Whether looking down roads to the New Year or the coming decades, it is the gift of the follower of Jesus that there are gates that may be closed. We need not worry about the future, nor look to resolutions or future me’s with fear of failing, nor tremble at what Christ has put behind us—or in front of us. In the words of a seventeenth century Puritan: “To suppose that whatever God requireth of us we have power of ourselves to do is to make the Cross and grace of Jesus Christ of none effect.”(3) Christ has written a message across the future to be delivered to our laboring souls each new day. As he went head first into the shadows of self-giving, he cried, “It is finished,” forever offering a door to shut, forever promising the strength to shut it. In this New Year, one can say in hope and in light: Christ has gone before us, he walks among us, he is our rearguard, he is our strength.
Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.
(1) Matt Sly and Jay Patrikios, Futureme.org.
(2) F.W. Boreham, “Please Shut This Gate,” The Silver Shadow (New York: The Abingdon Press, 1919), 118-119.
(3) John Owen, Works of John Owen: Volume 3 (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1862), 433.