What’s the 11th item on your bucket list?
There’s something eerily lacking in a bucket list. (A bucket list, by the way, is a list of things to do before you kick the bucket.) It’s not just that you’re seeking to live differently because of the looming sceptre of death, but that you are acknowledging a hopelessness in that condition.
Most people living to tick things of their bucket list, I suspect, fully expect those things to be the very best things they will ever experience. I suppose this is why we in the West are so afraid of ageing. There will come a day for most of us when we are no longer capable of parachuting 10,000 ft or swimming with dolphins. Hope fades. Our best days are behind us. It’s a slow shuffle to the grave.
“Let us eat and drink,” you say, “for tomorrow we die!”
This is just one of atheism’s Trojan horse gifts to humanity. The gift looks like freedom to live in the moment, but the Greeks in the belly are the persistent nagging sensations of ultimate purposelessness.
For there is hope. There is something to live for beyond today. The Christian hope of life after death isn’t attractive because it stands against the silent nothingness of atheism – it’s attractive because it means we are headed towards the thing we were created for: right relationship with God. This is our goal and destination. So there is a life to be lived in preparation for the end, not in avoidance of it.
God intends for us to enjoy the good things in life, but his wisdom is for us always to see them in perspective. Job was able to speak with integrity when he said, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” He is constant while our pleasures come and go.
In other words, I have nothing against the things on your bucket list (unless they’re really deviant); it’s the notion of the list itself that I take issue with. Because with the right perspective, top of every list of things to do before you die ought to be “get to know God.” Because there is more significance, more goodness, more pleasure, more satisfaction, there than in every other item combined.
It occurs to me that one of my favourite stories in the Bible is about a bucket list.
The protagonist is Simeon, a holy man who has been told by God that he won’t die before he sees the Messiah. You or I might put this to the test with some high-stakes antics like playing Russian Roulette or diving in a leaky submarine. Simeon wasn’t interested in avoiding death, however; he was interested in seeing his saviour face-to-face.
As it happens, Joseph and Mary trudged up to the Temple one day to do their religious duty and present their young son. Simeon clocked who the boy was and praised God that he’d been afforded the opportunity to see him:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace…. For my eyes have seen your salvation…”
Simeon can now die in peace, having seen God’s salvation; having come to know his saviour.
Simeon’s bucket list was one item long: get to know God. He had the right perspective on his life’s accomplishments. He may well have enjoyed swimming with dolphins, but I am confident that he enjoyed that moment in the Temple that day more than any other, this side of eternity. He died in peace, brimming with hope and expectation.
All this aside, let’s assume for a moment that I have forgotten Simeon’s perspective and have accidentally made a list of things to do before I die. I can suggest a particularly indulgent number eleven that would appeal to me. It would be to secure an obituary. I wouldn’t want a state funeral or anything like that, and I certainly wouldn’t desire public prominence of any sort, but I would like to think that my life was worth writing about, when the end comes. Even if I had to write it myself. Especially so, perhaps.