Just A Drop in the Bucket

I've been looking out the window and eavesdropping in the ICU waiting room all week. Talk of bucket lists is actually frequent here, where life is suddenly (though no doubt only momentarily) valuable. "When this is over, I'm going to..." might be the second or third most often used phrase (right after "I can't believe..." and "We're just waiting...").

Bucket Lists are all the rage these days, and if you're short of ideas you can find them posted all over Pinterest and FaceBook.  100 places to go, 25 things to do before I die, 75 experiences I need to make me happy and complete.

It's a catchy idea, but it makes me vaguely uncomfortable. It sounds awfully cocky to me. Who am I to announce that I must have this experience or see that thing before I can die content with my life?

I have come to believe that there's such a thing as a divine lesson plan and that I'm the student. A teacher at heart, I know that SOMEbody needs to keep an over-arching view of what's gotta get learned...and that the "somebody" is NOT likely to be the student, not even the brightest one in the class.

I remember letting kids choose their stations as a young-and-hopeful new teacher, only to find out at the end of the unit that some kids had stayed too long at one of the "fun" stations and many had simply found a way to look busy while skipping the hard ones entirely. They all liked to play the games and paint, and would maybe condescend to writing me a sloppy rough draft if it wasn't too hard. But the difficult tasks? Nuh-uh, no thank you.

I've been trying that with my life (and sometimes I still do), have you? I've attempted to grab the plan book and fill up all the boxes with recesses and pleasant lessons so maybe there'd be no time in the class period (my life!) for too much of the rigorous work.

The view out the window from here
Making a bucket list would feel like more of the same.

Age and ouches have taught me this: it's best to leave the lesson planning to the Expert. I just don't believe I can out-god God any more.

While I trust that I can't outrun God either--meaning that however badly I choose, God will use the mess I make for my good and His glory--the several years' accumulation of teethmarks on my hindquarters have finally convinced me that setting myself up for independent study has some serious drawbacks. While it's educational enough in the school-of-hard-knocks kind of way, I get myself off into the brambles where the Wild Things with the Very Sharp Teeth reside.

Every single time.

Rather than staring out the window of the divine classroom,
wishing I was out at recess or daydreaming about that cool and easy-peasy classroom down the hall,
and instead of wheedling that I can learn all the math I'll ever need by playing card games,
I'm paying closer attention to the lessons already in progress.

At what I have been already been given.

Seeing the wrecks and the rainbows, both, as gifts.

It may sound nuts to you, but I truly believe that none of this craziness I call my life--NONE of it--is an accident. God doesn't deal in Plan Bs; whatever is happening was always on His lesson plan...and His is the only plan that matters.

Here's why: 
If I am in Christ (and I am), 
and Christ is in God (and He is), 
then any circumstance that gets to me 
has done so only by going through both of Them. 

Picture this: 
There's a book. 
In the book is an envelope.
In the envelope is a piece of paper. 
Can an arrow (or a fiery dart!)  hit the paper
without first getting through the book
and the envelope, both?


That's it in a nutshell, but it would be hubris to apply out loud to anyone but myself, this platitudinous truth that God's got it handled and it'll all work for the good in the end.

"Count it all joy" is a lesson we cannot teach but only learn.

I don't say it blithely.  Don't think I've been living under a rock, that I've been sheltered. If I wrote it out for you, my life from early childhood on would sound like a bad made-for-TV movie script. Murder and shootout and stalking and abuse are on my life's word wall, mixed in with sweeter words like Jesus and blessing, and husband, children and joy in the later chapters.

When I say "It's All Good," I'm not spouting platitudes like the well-meaning hospital chaplain who stopped by this week, her religious-buzzword necklace so loosely strung together that if I didn't keep a weather eye on pop Christianity I might have wondered if she was quite entirely sane.

I know whereof I speak,  and these words have some substance.

And so the only bucket list I care about is the one God's got jotted down. I want to seize this day, this situation, these people. They are all--good, bad or ugly--God's gift, to me.

If I can't learn to consistently lean in, do the extra Book work, focus on the Teacher, and count every single lesson joy, it's not going to matter if I ever make it to Greece or see the Northern Lights, or not.

Seize life! Eat bread with gusto,
Drink wine with a robust heart.
Oh yes—God takes pleasure in your pleasure!
Dress festively every morning.
Don’t skimp on colors and scarves.
Relish life with the spouse you love
Each and every day of your precarious life.
Each day is God’s gift. 
It’s all you get in exchange
For the hard work of staying alive.
Make the most of each one!
Whatever turns up, grab it and do it. And heartily!
This is your last and only chance at it,
For there’s neither work to do nor thoughts to think
In the company of the dead, where you’re most certainly headed.

Ecclesiastes 9: 7-10
The Message

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