Living as if You’re Dying without a Bucket List


Last May or June I was driving by the Methodist church in Cheyenne and noticed their reader board said, “live each day as if you are dying”. A nice bumper sticker way of expressing a very profound piece of Christian reality. But while people probably read the sign, and sagely commented to themselves “how profound”, I wondered if they really knew what that entails. Do most of us really know what it means to live on death’s doorstep? I was coming to grips with a diagnosis of dying from ALS (Lou Gerigs disease), and as I drove on, began to think about what I might share with someone about the topic.

So what do you do the day after discovering you have 3-5 years to live? Maybe I’m dense, but I’m still figuring that out. However, let me share a couple of insights.

The movie “The Bucket List” reflects what most of us think of in terms of living as if you’re dying. You create a list of everything that is necessary to see and accomplish to make life complete, and then focus your remaining energies on frantically getting those things accomplished. You evaluate your every day living, and make changes.

Like anyone else, part of my initial grief was about all the things I always wanted to do some day and now might never have the chance. I was scared that my way of life wasn’t full enough, and  that now was the time to make radical changes.

Sorry to burst any bubbles, but moving to Worland was never part of that thought process! But that’s what happens when you invite Jesus into the process. Oh, believe me, Jesus and I had some real clenched teeth discussions early on. Yet, I still wanted what he wanted. So I invited him into my bucket list thinking. What I discovered is that there is very little that would make my life incomplete if I failed to see or do. Go fly fishing for salmon in Alaska, down to Argentina, or over to Italy, or fish the bone flats in Belize? Go see the incredible explosion of Christian converts happening in the middle east? Any of those would be a blast, but not essential to make my life complete. It would be amazing to witness what the Spirit is doing changing lives in Muslim countries, but what I REALLY want to see is that happen here. In fact, that is the only thing on my bucket list.

So living as a dead man walking isn’t about my bucket list. Instead, I seem to be on Jesus’ bucket list for me. Taking the kids on a big Disneyland vacation? Not on my bucket list. But someone gave us several thousand dollars last summer to do just that, and I wouldn’t trade it for a trip to Alaska now. Fishing in Belize? How about fishing partners to go ice fishing with in the incredible beauty of western Wyoming? I haven’t had friends to fish with since 1991. The Spirit working in the middle east? How about the Spirit working in and through a group of pastors from a wide range of denominations?

So instead of spending frantic energy every day working on my bucket list, I find myself slowing down instead. God has me taken care of, so I take time to savor life, not squeeze everything out of it. Rather than put energy into planning the ultimate tour of California wine country, I sit on my back step on mild evenings, finishing my wine and enjoying a good cigar. I don’t focus on drumming up the resources to afford the ultimate exotic fishing trip, I value the opportunities just to ice fish with men who are becoming good friends.

I’m discovering that living as a dead man walking Jesus’ way means being is more important than doing. Don’t wait until you end up with some terrible diagnosis – trust that Jesus has you covered today and tomorrow so that you can begin to savor life now.