I’m sure you’ve heard of bucket lists.
A “bucket list” is a list of things you want or plan to do before you die, from the ordinary to the extraordinary: skydiving, reconciling with an old friend, having a girls’ night out with your best friend, traveling to Thailand for a month.
The concept in and of itself isn’t a bad one: I think people all too often fall slave to the daily grind – many of us live to work rather than work to live – and being able to articulate your dreams and to try and follow through on them is meaningful work.
But the principle behind the bucket list is what often gives me pause. Because what the bucket list implies is that this is all the time we have. Get it in now, the list urges, before you’re in the ground! After that there’s no time! No fun! No nothing!
This philosophy (which bears traces of Buddhist and also New Age thought), has been around a long time and is gaining more and more traction in popular culture. Live in the now, speakers encourage us. Embrace the moment. The present is all there is. Live your life with urgency. Now, now, now. Now is all we have.
The problem is that for believers that is not true. Or should not be true. For us, this life isn’t all there is. You’ve got time ahead of you. Lots of time. Eternity, even. And so the worries and desires that haunt us – I want to have fun now, I need to travel now, I must live in this moment now – are nagging ghosts of the secular world. We’re going to have fun. We’re going to have meaningful work and things we’re passionate about. We’re going to be with the people we love and the God we love. We’re going to see amazing sights and do amazing things. (If you’re curious about what the afterlife might actually be like, I highly encourage you to take a look at Randy Alcorn’s Heaven, which is a heavy-duty Biblical study of how heaven is going to be so much more than the harps ‘n’ clouds fluffplace we shortchange it to be.)
What I’m saying is that for believers, death is a pause.
In fact, the Bible tells us there are only two things we need to be urgent about: our own relationship with God and our ministry to others. In Matthew 25, Jesus offers the parable of the talents as a story of urgency, of time well and badly spent: the servants only have so much time to work with the resources they’ve been given before their master returns. And in Revelation 22:12, Jesus gives a final announcement and invitation: “Behold! I am coming soon. My reward is with me…”
You only have a little time to do My work, God says, so get to it.
Get to know me, God says, before it is too late.
Unfortunately, as believers we tend to have a sense of urgency about all the things that don’t matter in the grand span of eternity: skydiving and getting to the grocery store and taking the dog out. And we tend to lose our sense of urgency when it comes to ministering to others, or to sharing our faith or simply establishing relationships.
So my question to you is this: have you ever considered making a spiritual bucket list? What would yours look like?
What are the God things you want to do before you die? Are there spiritual conversations you’ve been avoiding or putting off for that one day in the future when they will somehow, magically, be “appropriate”? Have you shied away from reconciling with someone? Are you a Jonah running away from a ministry to which you have been called? Has it been a while since your walk with Christ has borne any noticeable fruit? Struggling with a sin and wanting to make a fresh start “at some point”? Is there a God dream you have that you’ve just never attempted because it seemed too much, too soon, too big?
Whatever it is, write it down. Post that list somewhere you can see it. And start getting to it as quickly as you can. As soon as it’s possible. Today. Take that sense of urgency that so often gets channeled into your job, or your home life, or your schoolwork, or your errands, and use it for God’s purposes. Start making immediate spiritual goals and knocking them out, one by one.
We don’t have a lot of time to waste.