What is on your bucket list?
Have you been asked this question before? It’s a pretty popular question. A question that can be asked to break the ice, to reveal just enough about someone, but not too much: “Oh, I want to see all the 7 wonders of the world!” “I want to watch all the Oscar winning movies!” “I’d love to own a Ferrari!”
Bucket lists have the power to make you think outside of your normal, everyday lives. They can motivate action. In the Disney movie, “Up,” Ellie and Carl put coins in a jar to one day make it to Paradise Falls. I’m sure the thought of that beauty, of the mist of those falls touching their face, motivated them on many hard days.
But what happens to these bucket lists when we are trapped inside our homes, when travel seems like a far off dream, and the only goal you have today is to (maybe) change out of your pjs into your fancy sweatpants?
The Mirage of Fulfillment
For a long time, the top item on my bucket list was to go to Paris and up the Eiffel Tower. And a couple years ago, my husband and I actually made our way across the Atlantic to wait in line to go up the iron constructed tower. I had been looking forward to this moment my entire life. We were slowly pulled up the tower in the elevator and I had to keep my eyes shut. When we finally got to the first level, I was shaking. Everyone was crowding along the edges trying to get their perfect photo of the City of Paris below. I’m sure it was beautiful, but I stood far back against the wall unable to look. I could feel the wind whipping around me. I had never been so high before in open air. I had dreamed of this moment, and when it finally arrived, I couldn’t step forward to see the view. I was so disappointed.
The things we hope for in this world so often disappoint. I don’t know why I am still surprised by this. There are things that I naively still think are solid, that won’t disappoint me. I expect to be disappointed by weather forecasts and fast food, but I never expect to be disappointed by my own body or the people I love and trust. Or even God Himself. Yet it happens. I get disappointed because this world is broken, the people I love are broken, my body is broken, and my mind and how it comprehends and relates to God is broken, too.
Of course we know that technically God can’t disappoint us. He is perfect, right? And yet our prayers go unanswered, we get that diagnosis, and our minds are overwhelmed with feelings of isolation. We know in these moments somewhere in our brains that God is perfect and all loving and all good, and yet we feel our hearts drop. We feel that familiar feeling of disappointment. We are told He is a good Father who won’t disappoint us, and yet we are often left feeling like He just didn’t show up.
I know these moments. I live in these moments all the time. My feelings tell me that God disappointed me. That if God loved me, He would have done this differently. That I would FEEL differently if He loved me, and that things would be better. And I start to doubt what I know to be true. I doubt the sufficiency of God’s grace, His love for me, and His character. All because what is true doesn’t always line up with how I feel.
Now what does this have to do with bucket lists? Stay with me, we’re just taking the scenic route.
A Revolutionized List
No matter what is on our bucket list, or why it is there, there is always some sort of expectation about how we will feel when it is completed. If we can walk our daughter down the aisle then we will be ready to accept our diagnosis. If we can reconcile that relationship then everything will change. But we still get disappointed. Even though we may be grateful for that checked box, we still are hardly ever ready to die.
The feelings we seek when we get those boxes checked are fleeting and misleading, and sometimes not at all what we expected. But maybe the bucket list needs to be revolutionized. Maybe what we put our hope in needs to be reassigned.
At the end of it all, you may live a life that results in all your boxes being checked off, like a report ready to hand in. But you will be disappointed to find that no one is waiting to collect it. You will have all those boxes checked, received all the gold stars, and still be afraid, still selfish, and still needing Jesus.
Let us not forget that God will be like the master in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14–30. He will ask you what you have done with what He has given you. Did you grow in your prayer life? Did you pray for that person He asked you to? Did you use your talents for His kingdom, or did you use them for your own gain? Did you love others well, or did you leave a wake of broken hearts behind you? Did you dwell in His presence so much so that at the end of this life, when your time has come, it truly feels like going home?
Faithful with Little
There is nothing wrong with dreaming and hoping. There is nothing wrong with your dream of swimming with the dolphins being fulfilled. But maybe now, more than ever, we are invited to examine our hopes and dreams for our lives. What are we truly hoping for?
If our hope isn’t found in Jesus and in His promises, we will always end up disappointed. Do our dreams or the time we spend to accomplish them align with God’s kingdom and His mission? Or do we sacrifice God’s mission for our own momentary happiness?
These are all questions I am asking myself as I dream of a future that is less isolating and more healthy for my young daughter. But the dreams I have aren’t on pause until this pandemic plays out. God is working out His will in me, Covid or no Covid. The Holy Spirit is already working on my heart, helping me be more patient and to love better. You see, God’s mission, His “bucket list,” is going to come to fruition. It is guaranteed. It is finished. And when you align your dreams with His, you get to be a part of it. You get to climb up the Eiffel tower, look at the beautiful view, and be amazed.
What kind of lives would we lead if our only goal, the first thing on our bucket list, was to be faithful over the little we have been given? To one day hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” How would that shift and reprioritize how we spend our time? How we spend our money? What we post on Instagram? Would it change the guilt we feel and the stress we drown in? What kind of lives would we lead if we were more motivated by being faithful with little and not consumed by how we feel with much?
Maybe you will still make it to Thailand to paint elephants’ toenails, or maybe you won’t. But at the end of all things, and the Almighty God poses the question, “What have you done with what I have given you?”, may you get to hear His warm voice say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” // Matthew 25:21.
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