Actor Morgan freeman Rapture list
Kayaking down a waterfall. Base-jumping off the top of a sky-scraper. These are the sorts of activities which people typically write on lists of things they want to do before they die. So-called ‘bucket lists’, popularised in part by the film starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, have become a common way of ordering our thoughts about life and what we want to get out of it. Or at least, they’re a good way of dreaming about our lifetime highlight reel in advance.
Which got me thinking: what would a Bucket List look like for a Christian? To some extent, it would be exactly the same (barring perhaps the hedonistic trip to Vegas); we’re hopefully still normal people who enjoy exhilarating activities, love seeing the world, and want to eat at least one dinner at The Ivy. Yet we’re also people who see an extra dimension to human existence; who believe faith is something to be experienced, explored and practised. So what kinds of faith-based activities might we as Christians want to make sure we’ve undertaken or experienced before we die… or, you know, the Lord comes again?
This is my initial list, to add to all those other parachute jumps and visits to Fiji which present no less of an opportunity to meet and experience God. Ten things I want to do before I die, to push my faith further.
1. Make a pilgrimage
Nothing says self-discovery like a ten-day trek in the footsteps of Saints and Pilgrims. Whether that’s a walk along the Camino Way or a trip around the monasteries of Ireland, pilgrimage presents an amazing opportunity to check out of the daily grind, switch off the distractions of modern life, and spend some quality time learning about ourselves and God. Just make sure you pick any travelling companions well; you don’t want to end up spending three weeks walking toward Santiago de Compostela with Donkey from Shrek.
2. Do a Treasure Hunt
I’m not talking about the classic youth group activity here, but the mildly-terrifying prophetic prayer ‘game’ that’s become popular in the charismatic movement. Originating from Bill Johnson’s Bethel church in Redding, California, the idea is that a small group of you meet together to ask God for specific bits of information (or ‘clues’) about people in your community (eg red coat, brown hair, name of Julie) before you’re unleashed on the town to try to find and then pray for the people described. Sound bonkers? Maybe – but there are a whole host of stories from people who’ve tried it and encountered God as a result.
3. Experience the opposite extreme of church
While you might not be rooted in a specific denomination, there’s almost certainly an expression of church with which you feel most comfortable – whether that’s Catholic Mass, a Word-focused conservative congregation, or a young charismatic gathering with high production values. Believe it or not, God is present in all three – and in every other expression of church. Many of us have never been brave enough to venture into a church context that’s at the opposite end of the spectrum from our own; we’re almost certainly missing out.
4. Read the Bible in a year
The Bible is great in small chunks, but as one great big narrative of God’s relationship with mankind, it’s extraordinary and compelling. It’s no small task, but when we read the Bible as a whole and in order, we’re treated to the big picture; we get a far greater understanding of what all these smaller bits mean in context. Various Bibles and study plans exist to help you in your quest – best of the lot is HTB’s BIOY (Bible in one year) app; free for smartphones.
5. Go on a short-term mission trip
Whether it’s building orphanages in Romania or running education programmes in South America, going to a less developed part of the world and serving others can be absolutely transformational. Yes, there are issues around so-called ‘poverty tourism’, and a reasonable level of concern that these trips can sometimes do more harm than good for the communities you’re trying to help. But there are many, many testimonies from people who go with the aim to serve, and returned home changed forever; awakened to the need in the world, and motivated to continue doing something about it.
6. Give away something huge
Generosity is one of the most rewarding things we can practise… but it’s hard. Our possessions and our bank balance have a strange hold over us. One way to break that hold is to commit at least one act of generosity of a relatively mind-boggling level – relative that is to our own income and wealth. That might mean paying off a friend’s mortgage, or giving someone a car, but it might equally be £100, or £10. Alternatively, it might be a gift of time; looking after someone’s children for free one day a week so they can return to work. This kind of generosity is counter-cultural, and has an amazing impact on both the giver and the receiver. Be warned though: this kind of thing can be addictive…
7. Invite a friend to church
For some people this is a no-brainer; an activity repeated hundreds of times already. For others of us, this is the sort of suggestion that turns our blood ice-cold. Actually plucking up the courage to ask a friend or neighbour to come to that weird building that you disappear into each Sunday can be really tough, especially if we lack self-confidence. The thing to remember: they might really like it, and they might meet God, and become much happier and more fulfilled in their life as a result. Why wouldn’t you want that for them?
8. Go on a silent retreat
This sounds like my idea of purgatory. Yet many who’ve undertaken an extended silent retreat – even extroverts – have reported it to be life-changing. Many monastic centres offer the opportunity for visitors to come and join in with the wordless activities of the monks or nuns. A friend who spent five days doing just that reports that she nearly went mad on the first day… but didn’t want to leave after the fifth. The reason: because when we’re genuinely quiet, God speaks.
9. Walk where Jesus walked
Whatever your politics, there’s no doubt that there’s something incredibly special about being able to visit the Holy Land and ‘stand inside’ the stories found in the Bible. To be able to walk around the place where history was literally divided in two; to stand in the place where Jesus was crucified and then rose again – surely that’s an experience worthy of a place on any Christian’s ‘bucket list.’
This isn’t about going on the 5:2 diet (although that can present an opportunity for spiritual reflection), but undertaking a proper, sustained fast from food in order to spend time seeking God. Physical hunger creates spiritual hunger in parallel; a vacuum within us into which God moves. Three days is a good amount of time, but don’t attempt that straight away; build up to it by missing a meal, then fasting for a day once or twice. There’s no denying it’ll hurt – especially on day two – but the results can be well worth the painful journey.
Alright, I’ve already done a couple of these. The rest however, are being pinned to the imaginary fridge door in my mind. Some of them feel huge; others much more achievable, but each of them have the potential to transform me just a bit more. There’s an awful lot of things I want to do in my lifetime, and I hope that many of them might bring me a little closer to God before I meet him face to face. What’s on your list?
by Martin Saunders , a Contributing Editor for Christian Today.