Why I Don't Have a Bucket List (Or Make New Year's Resolutions)
By: Annie Provencher|Published: January 9, 2012 5:33 PM
When I was a kid, one of my favorite Christmas gifts to receive was a calendar. This was due largely to my affection for posed portraits of puppies. But it was also because I loved the ritual of taking down one calendar and putting up a new, blank one every year. Not that the previous year’s calendar was full. No kid in elementary school has that much to put on a calendar, and I liked those puppy dogs way too much to risk smudging them up.
When I got to college, I added the very mature, and only slightly more necessary, day planner to my Christmas list. I still requested a calendar . . . but now I had one for when I was on the go. Now, instead of a new picture every month, I got one every week! (Don’t worry, the puppies had long been cast aside.) But again, even more than the pictures were all those empty weeks just waiting to be filled.
There is so much expectancy that hangs over a blank page. Unmarked calendars, empty day planners, changing seasons, open roads, and new years are just as anticipatory as always (and the accompanying metaphors no less tired) as they beckon us forward with their unseen details and possibilities. For some the call is mesmerizing, the unknown an adventure waiting to be had. For others, all that empty territory is burdensome, inciting fear over all that could happen, or adding weight at the thought of all that isn’t getting done.
Whatever our response, I think it is inextricably linked to our sense of mortality.
“Watch out world! Here I am! This will be the month/season/year that I reach my goal/experience breakthrough/see my dreams realized/do more/get better/aim higher/live in a way that proves I’m living my life the way it was meant to be lived! Huzzah!”
“Look at all I need to do. Look at all I don’t know. This year is going to be just as bad as/worse than the one I just survived. I already feel completely daunted/overwhelmed/tired and I just want to crawl in a hole and hide until spring/summer/fall/next year. Uggh.”
Whether all these seemingly “fresh starts” thrill us or haunt us, they force us to face the fact that our days on this side are running out. Whether we feel they are being spent well determines our excitement or resignation. These sentiments—good and bad alike—are what lead us to do things like make New Year’s resolutions. Or write bucket lists.
While the term has existed for some time, it was the 2007 movie The Bucket List, starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, that made the phrase popular. The two men meet when they end up sharing a room in the hospital. They write a “bucket list” of all the things they want to do before they kick the bucket. Fortunately for them, Nicholson’s character is independently wealthy, so they can. They escape the hospital and start zipping around the world as fast as they can before their time runs out.
I’m sure you’ve heard the term used in real life. Maybe you’ve made one. I think bucket lists are like resolutions with all the fun and none of the pressure. Ask someone what’s on their bucket list and they will probably respond along the lines of “climbing Mount Everest,” “visiting all seven continents in a kayak,” “eating all 50 flavors of Jelly Bellies in one day,” or “skydiving over Area 57.” Stuff like that. Bucket lists never have anything on them like “eat more vegetables” or “work out enough to fit into my jeans from five years ago” or “read my Bible every day.” Those things are reserved for lists of goals and resolutions. Consequently, those lists are loathed the world over.
Now, as the title has already told you, I don’t have a bucket list. You’re probably assuming it’s because I have some sort of strange beef with bucket lists. You’re right, I do. But you’re also probably thinking it has something to do with the way we divide the harder, usually more worthwhile things from the crazier-than-all-get-out-but-not-as-meaningful-over-the long-term things.
There, you’re wrong. I think that fact holds some interesting irony. I also think that irony grows when we realize that, more often than not, we live somewhere between the two, overcome by the difficult discipline often required to make smaller changes, and scared of the risk that comes with taking big chances. I find that irony very interesting indeed. . . .
But that’s not my beef. My beef is this:
We make bucket lists because we forget that we are never going to die.
Do you believe this? Do you think about it? If we are followers of Christ, we must. After all, it’s one of the main tenets of our faith. This crazy, audacious, we’re-fools-to-the-world notion that we are never going to die because Christ died once for all is the foundation of our belief in Him (1 Pt. 3:18). In Him, all will be made alive (1 Cor. 15:22). Forever. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’” (John 11:25)
Do you believe this? My child . . . do you believe this?
You see, it’s either true or it’s not. If it’s not, our faith is futile, we are still trapped by sin, and lost to death. If only for this life we hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men (1 Cor. 15:17-19). But if it is true, then one day we will exchange these broken, mortal bodies for immortal ones . . . we will know as we are known . . . and we will see God (1 Cor. 15:50-54, 1 Cor. 13:12, 1 Jn. 3:2).
If it’s not true, then I should work hard to accomplish those resolutions so, when all is said and done and I’m dust in the ground, I’ve made this world a little better. I’ve left a little something behind. Or, if nothing else, I finally lost those last five pounds.
I should do all I can to have those adventures so, when it’s all over, at least I can say I lived a little. I ate well, drank much, played hard, had fun, and went out with a wild bang. Or, if nothing else, I sampled all 50 Jelly Bellies.
I must strive to accomplish every resolution and do all I can to tick the adventures off my bucket list one by one, because this is it. My one shot. The only chance I get.
Please don’t think I’m making light of death. In no way is that my intention. It’s just that, if Christ has not been raised from the dead, the substance of our lives comes down to a series of choices we make between resolving to be better people and gratifying our desires. Sometimes those choices and their results intertwine; sometimes not. But if it’s not true and eternal life is not found in Christ, then, at the end of our lives, whether we’ve lived as we wished or only ended up dreaming about it, we are still dust in the ground.
But if it is true . . . if Christ is the light and life of men . . . if he has conquered death and made it possible for us to spend eternity in the presence of God, surrounded by all the glory and all the beauty of his holiness. . . . Then we need never make another resolution again, and we can throw our bucket lists out the window.
If we are Christ-followers, then we believe—emphatically—that it is true! Blank pages, empty calendars, open roads, and new years are fine, but they need not be unduly dreaded or melodramatically exalted. For in Christ, we have already been made new, and He renews us daily (2 Cor. 4:16, 5:17). None of my piddly resolutions for fresh starts and new beginnings could ever do that. And bucket lists, while perhaps a fun way to keep track of all the crazy things you want to do in life, become completely superfluous. After all, you only need one if you are going to die.
Jesus has told us that if we believe in Him we will live, even though we die. Now He asks each of us:
My child . . . do you believe this?
Annie Provencher is a writer living in Virginia. She blogs at annieprovencher.blogspot.com.
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