Back to the Future is one of the first science/speculative fiction movies I can remember watching. I loved it immediately, and still do! It’s one of those movies that defies stereotyping and genres because it truly offers everything: action, romance, cool cars, etc. It’s also got a nice little nugget of philosophy that I’d like us to look at.
Back to the Future follows Marty McFly, a young man with a bunch of issues, most of them family-related. His father, George, has no self-confidence and lives under the thumb of his supervisor at work, who just so happens to have been bullying George since high school. Lorraine, Mary’s mother, is a depressed drunk. And let’s not even take time to express how miserable his older siblings are.
And then Marty travels in time…so many spoilers are on the way. If you’ve been Amish for the past thirty years and haven’t seen this movie, STOP now!
Marty ends up in 1955 and interacts with his parents while they’re in high school and changes them and their paths forever. I won’t get into the “how,” as that’s basically the whole movie and too awesome to squeeze into a blog post paragraph. The point is that he set them on a different course, the results of which aren’t revealed until Marty returns to his present time (1985). Once he’s back, he’s shocked to see how his family has changed. His parents’ are both healthier and more in love than ever. His father is now a successful artist, and his mother is both mentally well and sober. His siblings are now both successful as well. Even the bully whose shadow has loomed large over the whole story has been humbled and has become a better person.
While a great movie, the ending scene wherein we realize how the McFly family has been renewed is beyond great. It provides an almost euphoric sense of justice as we realize that this version of Marty’s family is the real one and the weak and wounded version we started the movie with was never meant to be. It was a corruption of this reality brought on by mistakes, misunderstandings, and an inability to tap into their fullest potential.
This ending rings so true for us and strikes us so powerfully because it’s the story of humanity. We are not who we were meant to be. Ever person you meet today or have ever met is a pale corruption of who they were supposed to be. Even you aren’t the real “you.” You’re a living, breathing corruption, a being birthed out of a broken promise.
And let’s be clear: we broke this promise. God promised us perfection, immortality, and communion with Him, and yet we destroyed this by rebelling against. Like a child who breaks relationship with his or her parents by refusing to listen to their guidance or obey their rules, we left home and have suffered as a result. Death, destruction, and desecration have all been unleashed upon humanity by our own foolish, selfish, evil actions. We left God, and God left us to our own devices. Spoiler alert: our devices suck.
On our own, we will destroy ourselves and everyone around us, all while searching for the elusive peace and harmony that can only be found in the presence of God. We’re so broken and twisted on the inside that we actually killed Jesus, the Son of God, when he came to offer us His merciful invitation to restoration.
Yet, despite all of the evil we’ve committed against others and our own selves, we, too, can be renewed like Marty’s family. The whole family of humanity has been invited to enter into God’s family through the righteous life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God. He has promised to restore us to our intended glory. Now, unlike Marty, this will come to us slowly, over time, until we reach the other side of life and enter into His eternal presence. Then, and only then, we will be completely restored, made right in every way imaginable.
Until then, we can experience small glimpses of that ultimate restoration now by spending time in prayer, worship, and reading God’s Word. We’ve not be left to wait without any idea of what awaits us. God wants to reveal our future to us piece by piece, day by day. We only have to look to Him.
In the end, Marty went home and found that it had been renewed. Our home will be renewed one day, as well. When God had dealt with and removed all evil from within creation, He will restore both the heavens and the earth, making “all things new.” Then, Heaven, the dwelling place of the manifest presence of Almighty God, will descend to the Earth, and God will dwell with us for all eternity.
Marty McFly went back to the future; we are going back to God.