About that bucket list — Tendai Chitsike

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A monthly column that reflects on living in the Kingdom of God.

I was fortunate enough to overhear a short conversation between a mother and daughter. The daughter, eyes full of starry-eyed imagination, gushed forth with the priorities on her “bucket list”, including swimming with dolphins as a “must-do”.

When asked about her own list, her mother, exuding contentment, instantly replied: “I don’t have anything on my bucket list, except to see all my children with me in heaven.”

More than an everyday conversation, the two approaches of daughter and mother can represent two completely different ways of living, with profoundly different consequences.

The philosophy (yes, I did use that word) behind a “bucket list” is that because “you only live once”, our limited life here on earth must be filled with as many experiences of fun and adventure that we can muster.

What are to make of this? While God has given us much to enjoy, such a philosophy denies the resurrection, focuses on oneself instead of God’s Kingdom, and with social media on overdrive, is easily prone to envy and dissatisfaction, disregarding what we already have in Christ.

Commenting on the “bucket list” philosophy, author Randy Alcorn states that the idea “makes sense from a naturalistic worldview, one that doesn’t recognize any afterlife…(but) the one worldview in which the bucket list makes no sense is biblical Christianity.”

In fact, he goes on to say that such a mentality “…is profoundly unbiblical (as) it disregards the teaching of the resurrection”.

Similarly, A W Tozer wrote: “The foolish man lives as if he will never live again, as if this were the only world there is.”

Dwight L Moody wrote the following concerning his death: “Some day you will read in the papers that D L Moody of East Northfield, is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now; I shall have gone up higher, that is all, out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal—a body that death cannot touch, that sin cannot taint; a body fashioned like unto His glorious body.”

How has this philosophy impacted our generation? Instead of living for God’s glory, “bucket-listing” puts our lives at the centre, ultimately resulting in regret instead of joy.

In addition, the bucket list philosophy can leave us woefully unprepared for much of life on this side of eternity. The world created by the bucket list is one that is far removed from the reality of “adulting”, the frequent monotony of life and the disappointment of dashed hopes.

More than that, it is also a poor substitute for the joy of savouring Christ and His kingdom, even as we yearn for eternity. By negating eternity, it creates a gross distortion of reality.

We would also spend less and risk less on the Great Commission. Going to (or staying in) a remote place that doesn’t have free Wi-Fi and is not so exciting and adventurous would just not be an option. Occasionally, I meet friends who used to be with me at varsity in the nineties. Admittedly, it is a bit unusual for alumni to stay in our town. Nevertheless, there is a hidden assumption that we should be moving on to bigger and better things.

The last time a friend greeted me and said: “You are still (eyebrows raised) living in Grahamstown, I was tempted to say ‘And you are still living in that city’. But I restrained myself. If this life is all there is, then living out one’s days in a remote corner somewhere would be a miserable existence for adherents to this philosophy.

“But if the resurrection is true, then in the words of the Francis Schaeffer book, there are ‘no little people’ and ‘no little places’. I will be the first to admit that I too am in need of mind renewal in this area.

“Often, as I drive through a tiny settlement, I struggle to think of it and its people in these terms. Schaeffer hits it on the mark as he brings forth the humbling truth: ‘As there are no little people in God’s sight, so there are no little places. To be wholly committed to God in the place where God wants him—this is the creature glorified…We all tend to emphasise big works and big places, but all such emphasis is of the flesh. To think in such terms is simply to hearken back to the old, unconverted, egoist, self-centred Me. This attitude, taken from the world, is more dangerous to the Christian than fleshly amusement or practice. It is the flesh.’”

Ironically, the bucket-list philosophy also devalues the very adventures our generation so craves. Have you ever had an experience, perhaps on holiday, where everything on the surface seems postcard-perfect, but you cannot escape a gnawing sense that something is missing? I have.

Perhaps it is because we are created not only to experience the pleasure of a holiday but the eternal significance of living for the eternal kingdom of God.

Don’t suppress those moments and continue like the world around you. Prayerfully seek God as to how that time can become what it should be: a time of rest but with God at the centre.

When I have been aware enough to do that, it has had a markedly significant impact on the getaway. In this regard, Jesus’ words to his disciples are no less apt to a generation seeking the highest high when He said: “Come away with me…and get some rest.”

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