Kicking the “Bucket List”

Bucket lists seem to be proliferating everywhere. There are ones you can buy (1,000 Places to See Before You Die, for example) and ones you make yourself. A quick web search turned up some pretty comprehensive lists of ideas ranging from places to go, books to read, and adventures to have, to financial and material success, skills to learn, and career ambitions.

Most bucket lists contain goals like visiting the Taj Mahal, going backpacking in Yosemite, or seeing a solar eclipse—or we write down our hope to earn a college degree, get married and have kids. Those are great things to aspire to. In fact, I’ve already checked all of them off my own list, and I recommend them highly!

Most people make their list by consulting themselves. They may get inspiration from other sources—friends, books, websites, etc.—but ultimately, they decide what they want to do with their lives. As followers of Christ, we need to come at making a bucket list from a different perspective. After all, we are not our own. We have traded everything we are for the surpassing value of Jesus (Philippians 3:8). We have been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Psalm 37:4 says, “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” For a long time I struggled with this verse. At first I thought it meant that if I’m focused on God, He’ll give me what I want. As I grew in my understanding, I realized the verse might be paraphrased as “Find my happiness in God, and He will place proper, Godly desires in me.” Finally I saw that both views ultimately mean the same thing: as I learn to love God more and more, His desires and my desires will become the same. As a result, He will be happy to fulfill them.

So, am I only considering my own enjoyment of life? Or is my list a reflection of God’s priorities? If I take delight in God—if I’m pursuing Him—then my bucket list should reflect that attitude.

This isn’t to say that God never wants me to have fun. I’ve found that often I’m harder on myself than He is. I sometimes feel that if I’m not suffering for the sake of the Gospel, something’s wrong, when God just wishes to bless me because He loves me. (I’m not sure who enjoys my birding trips more—me, adding another “lifer” to my bird list, or God, showing off His creation to one who enthusiastically appreciates it.)

It’s fine to write down my aspirations, but I need to hold them loosely. God has the final say. It’s even better to ask God what He wants on my list. He may have some ideas that I’ve never thought of. (On the other hand, God seems to love surprises, so I may just have to wait and see how He directs my life!)

Not everyone has the opportunity to do even one thing on their bucket list. Circumstances beyond our control can always limit our options. We may end up battling cancer instead of  scaling Denali. We could be reaching out to widows and orphans instead of photographing lions in Africa. God calls some of His children to prison, or martyrdom. Ultimately, we say yes to God no matter what He asks of us. I have a strong hunch that when we finally see Him face to face, our bucket list will be the last thing on our minds.

Do you have a bucket list? What’s on it? Why?

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