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THE ‘BUCKET LIST’

by Jacob Ninan

The Bucket List was a 2007 Hollywood movie with the plot about two terminally ill men on a trip with a wish list of things to do before they ‘kicked the bucket’. The idea caught on very fast, and people all over the world began to make their own ‘bucket lists’. Everyone, it seems, had some dream to fulfil – some crazier or more fantastic than others and some more sober – before they left this world. Have you thought about this, and what all would be there in your particular list?

Since this movie came out, many people have written about creating individual bucket lists as the short and long term goals for their lives. This can be broader or bigger than New Year resolutions. Celestine Chua, in an article on the Internet called, “Bucket List Ideas: 101 Things To Do Before You Die,” has listed the following questions people can ask themselves in order to help them to identify their bucket lists.

• What if you were to die tomorrow? What would you wish you could do before you die?
• What would you do if you had unlimited time, money and resources?
• What have you always wanted to do, but have not done yet?
• Any countries, places or locations you want to visit?
• What are your biggest goals and dreams?
• What do you want to see in person?
• What achievements do you want to have?
• What experiences do you want to have/feel?
• Are there any special moments you want to witness?
• What activities or skills do you want to learn or try out?
• What are the most important things you can ever do?
• What would you like to say/do together with other people? People you love? Family? Friends?
• Are there any specific people you want to meet in person?
• What do you want to achieve in the different areas: social, love, family, career, finance, health (your weight, fitness level), spiritual?
• What do you need to do to lead a life of the greatest meaning?

A sad fact is that many people do not have any major goals in their lives, and they are merely drifting along with the world wherever it takes them. In other words, people are allowing the days of their lives pass one after another, without making them count for anything valuable. They are occupied only with the current problems they face without thinking or planning for their future. For such people, thinking about the bucket list is a good wakeup call.

Many people, when they prepare their bucket lists, think about visiting or having a holiday in some exotic places, completing a pilgrimage, experiencing the thrill of some adventure, trying out different cuisines, meeting some ‘stars’ of whatever field they are involved in (and taking ‘selfies’ with them!), etc. Some plan for leaving a ‘legacy’ behind, in terms of an organisation they have started, a building they have constructed, a project they have completed, a monument or statue in their honour (!), a best-selling book or DVD, a name in a book of records, or some other achievement for which posterity will remember them.

What kind of bucket lists will we Christians prepare? Sad to say, it looks like there is generally not much difference from the lists others make up! We also seem to hope for enjoyable experiences, or leaving a ‘Christian’ legacy in terms of name, institutions, buildings, projects, etc.!

The apostle Paul leaves us a challenge in this, as in many other areas. It is clear that he had only one major goal for his life. He said, “One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Php.3:13,14). At the end of his life, he could say with great gratitude towards God that he had completed the course that the Lord had drawn out for him (2Tim.4:7,8). For him, nothing else mattered. In making a comparison between what the Lord wanted him to accomplish and what he could have made out by himself, he called the latter ‘dung’ (Php.3:8).

The problem is that we do not seem to see things in the same way! We may excuse ourselves by pointing out that Paul had a very special calling from God as the pioneering apostle to the Gentiles and also how he was unmarried without any encumbrance. Our justification seems to be that ‘ordinary’ people like us need to have a more moderate approach towards life. That is a choice we make, with or without thinking about it. But moderate approaches will only yield moderate results! Whatever our particular calling may be from God, should not we also be sharply focussed on fulfilling it, rather than get distracted by other things?

When we look at the problem more deeply, we can see that one reason for this is the relative value we give to our life here on this earth and the life that is to come! If we follow the theory of evolution and believe we are just some biological entities (animals) that happen to be here by a long combination of chance occurrences and for whom there is going to be simply oblivion after death, it would be understandable if we decide to make the most of our life here while we have it. In other words, “Let’s eat and drink and be merry” (cf. Ecc.2:24;1Cor.15:32). But we cannot do that if we believe there is a life to come, and the way we live here is going to have serious impact on how we live then!

So, Jesus tells us not to labour much for the things that will anyway perish one day, but to work for the things that will remain through eternity (Jn.6:27). He tells us to store up for ourselves ‘treasures’ in heaven (Matt.6:19,20). Paul exhorts us to set our mind on things above and not on the things of this earth (Col.3:1-4).

Of course, we have to take care of life on earth for ourselves, our families and others under our care as in the case of churches and institutions, in every aspect such as physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. All of us are not being asked to sell off everything and follow Christ.

But the important thing is to see where our ‘heart’ is, because that is where our treasure is (Matt.6:21). What is the main goal of our lives? Is it to fulfil the purpose of God for our lives to the maximum, or to enjoy ourselves in different ways? The people of the world mostly go after enjoyment in various ways, but what are there in our lives that are different and of a higher quality?

A. W. Tozer, in his book, Man, the dwelling place of God, mentions about a nobleman in England who had enough money and did not need to work for a living. In other words, this man could do whatever he wanted with his time. Tozer was shocked that this man chose to dedicate his whole life to breed the perfect spotted mouse! He wrote, “Made in the image of God, equipped with awesome powers of mind and soul, called to dream immortal dreams and think the long thoughts of eternity, he chooses the breeding of a spotted mouse as his reason for existing. Invited to walk with God on earth and to dwell at last with the saints and angels in the world above; called to serve his generation by the will of God, to press with holy vigour towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, he dedicates his life to the spotted mouse, not just evenings or holidays, mind you, but his entire life. Surely this is tragedy, worthy of the mind of an Aeschylus or Shakespeare.”

We can reiterate to ourselves that each of us has a unique calling from God which we need to accomplish. Irrespective of our particular function in the body of Christ, all of us are called to be faithful witnesses for Christ as light and salt in the different situations we are placed in. We need to examine ourselves and see what is burning in our hearts, what it is that our hearts are burdened with, and what it is that we long to live for – and see if these are about what the Lord wants for us. If we are faithful to the Lord in following Him where He has placed us, that will cause us to have an impact to the small world around us (Eph.4:16).

However, if the salt has lost its flavour, and we are living here with bucket lists very similar to what the rest of the world holds, what would we be fit for in the eyes of the Lord (Matt.5:13)?

-- Editorial in the Light of Life magazine, June 2018

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