A bucket list that can change the world

by Mark McDonald

Recently, I boarded a plane for a fast trip to a seminar that I was very excited about. (It also happened to be on the eastern coast of Florida, which was also very exciting.) I got onto the plane and the captain told us that we had everyone on board 20 minutes ahead of schedule. There appeared to be a tailwind that would take us to our destination, and we would most likely get there early. The flight attendant told us we weren’t full, so we could move to any seat to get more comfortable. It seemed like my goals were lining up perfectly.

Then, after about 15 minutes, the captain told us we could not take off early because there was a significant computer outage with the airline. We were told it would take about a half hour to reboot the computer, then things would start moving. We ended up staying on our plane for about four and a half hours waiting to take off.

We’ve all had similar situations. We are headed where we want to go, then something derails. We get stuck, and things far beyond our control keep us from doing what we want to do. Getting stuck on an airplane for hours pales in comparison to some of the things that happen to us: illnesses, job loss, unexpected repairs, a flat tire, or reaching over to pick up a pencil and pulling your back out.

Life is full of obstacles to our goals, but that day I learned something that helped me realize what makes a bucket list more than a list of my personal goals. They can help us align our lives with what God wants for us!

One of the great stories of Jesus is when he feeds more than 5,000 people when there didn’t seem to be enough food. Jesus had just received bad news and tried to get away from everyone. The crowd followed him and the disciples saw them as an obstacle. They wanted to send everyone away and get something to eat. It seemed like a huge obstacle.

However, the scriptures tell us that Jesus looked over the crowds and “had compassion on them” (Matthew 14:14). Was Jesus’ goal to spend the rest of his life with that multitude of people? Of course not. His bucket list was to “love God” and “love neighbor” (Mark 12:28). People weren’t obstacles; they were his goal!

What if we set our bucket lists like Jesus apparently did? What if we based our bucket lists on loving God and others? I believe obstacles would be far less frustrating, and we might even find them removed!

When my friend and I were on the plane for several hours that night, the people around us started sharing tweets from others stuck on planes. We heard stories of planes running out of food and water and tweets from angry people. Obstacles not only keep us from our goals, they can also bring out the worst in us. Why? Because our plans are derailed and we can’t reach our destination.

Our plane was different than that. The flight crew kept us updated every 10-15 minutes. They kept checking on us and bringing us what they could. The passengers reflected that. We shared tweets and recognized how grateful we were to make the best of a bad situation.

We joked about our inconveniences. When one passenger seemed to hit the wall and broke down, another passenger walked with her to the flight crew to discuss options for her. We shared our destinations and goals, and wished each other luck. We decided to stick it out or modify our plans.

When we set our bucket lists, let’s learn from Jesus. Instead of saying “sit on a Caribbean beach,” we can say, “take my spouse to the beach.” Then, if we can’t make it to Jamaica, we can drive to the gulf, or even visit an Arkansas lake! Our focus isn’t on the destination, but the journey and the people we travel with. That’s a bucket list that honors God and others, and we may find it takes us to places that are even better than we expected.