Imagine experiencing a future of such beauty and possibility that it transforms the way you think about reality and the choices you make in the present. That’s what happens to Casey Newton — an optimistic teenage girl who aspires to be an astronaut in a diminishing-NASA era — whenever she touches a lapel pin of the letter ‘T’ in Disney’s latest film, Tomorrowland.
Casey is one of many dreamers, artists and inventors who have been given a glimpse of Tomorrowland in hopes of shaping a better future for humanity. That vision sends her on a remarkable and risky journey that changes how she sees the world — and the fate of a humanity on the brink of self-destruction.
I resonate with Tomorrowland’s theme that our vision of the future can transform the way we live now. Early church believers fixed their vision on a future that helped free them to live risky, transformed lives that changed the world.
“Human life and consciousness requires, by its very nature, a projected future,” says Dallas Willard in The Divine Conspiracy.
Unlike our present culture, which fixes its visions of humanity’s future on a closed system of materialism, Jesus presents us with the reality of an unrestrained kingdom and “a future as good and as large as God himself,” says Willard.
Scripture tells us we will reign with God, and we shall be as the resurrected Jesus (1 John 3:1-2, Phil. 3:20), who was not restrained by space, time and the physical limitations of our bodies. The mortal part of us, says Willard, will be “swallowed up by life” in a world restored, “a kingdom come in its utter fullness.”
It will be a life brimming over with beauty and possibility beyond our imagination — but our embracing of and belief in the reality of that future is imperative to our life now.
In order to live in the kingdom, says Willard, “we need to have firmly fixed in our minds what our future is to be like. . . . It must be something we can now plan or make decisions in terms of. . . . In this way our future can be incorporated into our life now and our life can be incorporated into our future.”
In Tomorrowland, the present world, like our own, is broken. And, as in our world, too many do nothing.
“In every moment there’s a possibility of a better future, but you people won’t believe it — and because you won’t believe it you won’t do what is necessary to make it a reality,” one character tells Casey. “People don’t care about a better future because it doesn’t cost them anything today.”
Like Casey, the journey to our glorious future requires a risk-taking kind of life — a “lay down your life, pick up your cross” kind of life. But the result is the experience of that future breaking into our world. We experience the fullness of that future kingdom now. The experiences we have in this life, says Willard, “fill us with anticipation of a future so full of beauty and goodness we can hardly imagine.”
Our own experiences of that future — be it from Scripture, a breath of the Spirit, a moment in the kingdom with God’s family — remind us not only what is to come but also that here and now is overflowing with possibility, beauty and restoration.
And as we live out together that reality, others can see it too. We become like Tomorrowland’s lapel pins, giving others a glimpse of a glorious future breaking into this one today.
Carmen Andres, a former editor of the Mennonite Brethren magazine Christian Leader, lives in Alexandria, Va.