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Monday, October 8, 2012

Turning the Bucket Upside-Down

This term “bucket list” entered the American English vocabulary officially this year. It is in the newest Merriam-Webster Dictionary. And we’ve all heard it. I’ve been appalled that people younger than I am are already working on creating and fulfilling items on their own “bucket lists.” I’m not quite ready to begin thinking that way. Maybe that’s me fighting against reality. Maybe it’s because of the undeniably geezerish nature one must assume if you in any way link yourself and your goals to the old guys in the movie that popularized the term. And honestly, as I begin to consider, even remotely, what my own bucket list might comprise, those guys are not the place I would go for inspiration.

I know I’m an adventurer at heart. An adventurer fully entrenched in the dolor of daily life. I told a co-worker a few days ago, when assigning a story of an adventurous nature, that if I could I would be giving historical architectural and archeological tours by dirigible somewhere over the sands of Egypt. But it’s by map and book and the lives of others that my adventurous spirit clings to life. My own real life is words and children, penny-pinching and praying, writing assignments and deadlines, the constant fight against mildewed and wrinkled laundry, band-aids, boo-boos, snippets of theology, letters and phone calls from college students and world-traveling friends, broken glassware and bare feet, apples decaying in the bushel, cross-country cheerleading, a little poetry—with most of it never making it to full form on paper or computer screen, and not enough sleep. I doubt making a bucket list would do anything for the goal of sustaining my own contentment in the dailyness of life. “Know thyself,” I’ve been told. Yes, I know it’s probably best for one like me, a natural daydreamer, not to create such a list. Not to add a stumbling block of longing when there’s much to be done today.

And for that reason, it occurred to me that maybe that which is becoming an accepted American phenomenon might actually be a detriment to us. Are we again being drawn to focus too much on our own selfish desires? Are we counting the value of our lives against some exotic definition of existence that we’ll mostly fail to accomplish? Or are we really looking to “redeem the time” by making ourselves available in the small details or the big opportunities that our Maker has for us, according to his own purposes?

Maybe it wasn’t written down the same way, and maybe it would never be called something so jovial and irreverent as a bucket list, but Jesus had one. He knew all that he must do before his time on Earth was done. And he set about doing it with purpose. I was struck this morning once again by John’s conveyance of one very important item on Jesus’ bucket list. And it actually involved a bucket. Or a basin, as my translation says. Chapter 13 starts out this way. Let these words wash over you. Consider your own bucket list, and how you would feel about it if you were at the very last hours of your life, and you knew it, and you had only a little time left to accomplish what you had written:

“Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”

He has only a few hours to live. He knows it. He even knows who is going to start the process rolling that will take him down. Does he try to protect himself? No. Does he look to relish the last moments in personal pleasure? Does he ask for a perfectly grilled rare steak? Does he want one more adventure? The company of a special woman? A glass of priceless amontillado? No. His bucket list isn’t about those kinds of self-satisfying things. He seeks no earthly comfort, no final thrill. He has his beloved friends gathered around him. The only thing he wants to accomplish still is to love them to the end.

Having loved them while he was in the world, he loved them to the end.

What he came to do, he had not finished until his life on earth was completely over. To the very end, he kept doing what he came to do, and it wasn’t about the quality of his own life as we would define it.

His last hour wasn’t spent in anything for himself, and no one there was meeting his needs either. He kept loving them. They loved him too, we know this. But it was with a childlike, immature love. They just didn’t get it. (And I daresay that though we try, and we keep returning to him, we don’t fully get it either. I’m not saying this judgmentally of the disciples. I just see so much of myself in them that I relate to them here—baffled, probably feeling a little proud and exalted, thinking something like, “Yeah, I’ve really hung in here, haven’t I? All this traveling, living from hand to mouth, probably good for me to rest and have my feet washed tonight…”) But even though they didn’t get it, he still gave. He kept on giving and doing without resentment. Without bitterness for how little they understood how much more he was even still going to give for them.

According to the passage, they didn’t even think to thank him. They just sat there and took it. Except for Peter, who so audaciously disagreed and tried to stop him, tried to STOP God Incarnate. But Jesus persisted. Gently, firmly, he persisted to love him to the end, even when Peter didn’t want it—wanted instead to rebel against God’s expression of love, or control it on his own terms. Ah, Peter. I know. I know.

What will my bucket list have on it? I can’t say. I think I won’t make an actual list. But for today, I’m going to love someone who’s near me. I know myself well enough to know also that already, I need to confess to God and ask him to prepare me for that snare in my soul that wants to be loved and thanked and lavished upon afterward in return for whatever act of love I managed to offer, in my bungled childish way. I know I cannot yet act altruistically. But I see him. I see you, Jesus. I don’t get it entirely, but you. You’re my bucket list. Apart from you, the bucket is empty. Apart from you, a life full of accomplishments and comforts is empty. A chasing after wind. But here it is, the bucket that is my life. Let me love to the end, and claim your promise and yours alone, that I need no list. My bucket will be filled to good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, for with the measure that one uses it will be measured back.


Tammi T. said...

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE THIS!!! Thank you for this humbling reminder of where I need to get my cup (or in this case, bucket) filled. It brings to mind a point Beth Moore made at a simulcast I attended last month. May we all heedvthe example set forth by our Saviour!

Mary said...

The voice in me says, "Is this 'all' I am supposed to do? Is there something 'more', something 'greater' I should be doing?" Thank you for again pointing me to Jesus and the all he did/does/is doing.

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Hitneyann Yoder said...

Beautiful, and so true.