Dale is a very good friend. A recently retired professor, he recently wrote a very good blog post, “What Good Health is For,” reflecting on what is important in the next chapter of his life. There’s one line in the post that struck me, though. In passing, Dale mentions bucket lists, a term made famous a few years ago in the Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman movie of that name. Spoiler Alert! This clip captures the message of the movie very well. Movieclips.com calls the scene “He Saved My Life,” from one of the lines the Nicholson character delivers. So, in his post, my friend Dale tells us he has nothing against bucket lists, and there is no reason in the post for him to have anything against bucket lists. But I do have something against bucket lists.
A bucket list is a list of things to do before we kick the bucket. I worry when people actually get serious about a bucket list – or a “Thirty before Thirty” list (thirty things to do before you reach age 30) or the like.
Yesterday I joined one of our LPC families as we remembered the life of a 94-year old mother, grandmother and great-grandmother who had died earlier in the week. We remembered the life and celebrated our sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life. Hers was a life worth remembering and her hope, and ours, is sure and certain. We will be engaged in similar good work at a memorial service for another LPC saint a week from Saturday.
As far as I know, neither Helen nor Gene had a bucket list, and if they did it was not mentioned by those who loved and knew them best. Their legacy is not measured by how many items on the list were checked before the end. Their legacy is measured by how they loved and the faith they shared with those who loved and knew them best – and many others.
There’s nothing wrong with thinking about things we’d like to do someday – before thirty or before we kick the bucket. Skydive, see the Eiffel Tower, climb to the top of a mountain or plumb the depths of the sea. Sure, let’s make our lists, but then let’s tuck them away and forget about them lest we take them too seriously.
Our Confirmation kids are learning the answers to the first few questions of the Westminster Catechism. We talk about them every time we meet. The first question asks us “What is the chief end of man?” We answer, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” No mention of a bucket list.
The problem with bucket lists taken too seriously is that they distract from our chief end – glorifying God and enjoying him forever. I’ve never been to or officiated at a funeral at which a friend or family member fondly recalled how grandma or grandpa had made it to the end of their bucket list. Or even half way down. When love has been given and faith has been shared, God glorified and enjoyed, there is always much celebration, even if through our tears.
Our chief end is not to come up with a bucket list we can complete just in time, it is to glorify and enjoy God forever (which may include skydiving or seeing the Eiffel Tower; climbing to the top of a mountain or plumbing the depths of the sea, but always a whole lot more than that.)
What’s on my bucket list? Can’t remember. It doesn’t really matter.
Oh, in the movie the Jack Nicholson character says that the last few months in the Morgan Freeman character’s life were the best in his life. “He saved my life,” he says. It’s true. In the movie whatever remains of the Nicholson character’s life is profoundly changed and made better for his brief friendship with the Freeman character as they make their way down a bucket list. In the gospel we meet the One who offers us a friendship that will last forever. That friend, Jesus, saves our lives – what remains of them here and then forever.