A few days ago I got the most recent copy of the propaganda magazine my undergraduate college sends out. (I always read it with raised eyebrows when I was a student -- how did our humdrum student life get to sound so incredibly amazing when packaged for donors?! Incredible?!) Amongst the comments I noted that apparently it is the thing these days for students to be encouraged to make a "bucket list" and then plan to accomplish these things.
Now, I'm with it enough to understand this is based on a movie I've never seen and means that you are supposed to list all the things you'd like to accomplish before you die.
So I thought about that.
I'm really not the sort of person to think dreamily about things I'd like to do. There have been a few times in my life when a desire welled up in me to do something. One such time occurred when I read The Way of the Pilgrim in the early 90s, which is an account of the spiritual journey of an anonymous Russian Orthodox man. In it, he expressed a desire to go to Mount Carmel in Israel. I was completely taken with the same desire by the time I finished the book, and I told the Lord that if He opened the way for me, I would take it and go. It was several days, maybe a couple weeks later, that I was at a John Michael Talbot concert and he spoke of an upcoming pilgrimage he was making to the Holy Land, and mentioned they would go to Mount Carmel. There was my chance! It worked, and I went. It ended up being my Catholic honeymoon as I went just two weeks after coming into the Church.
Then there was my desire to go to Japan, which was birthed in a much less sublime or even logical way. As a kid I wanted to be a missionary; my best friend was a Japanese-American, and this made me believe going to Japan would be easy. When an already difficult relationship completely broke apart and I had no idea what to do with my life, I looked up opportunities to teach in Japan, and I moved there. It was the worst decision I ever made, at least in terms of discerning what I could handle. But I thought it was what I wanted, and I did it.
The only other thing I wanted deeply was to get married, which I eventually did. And of course then I did also deeply want to have kids, which I also did. Maybe it was these experiences that taught me something about this whole concept of "wanting something and going for it."
There's such an illusion of control buried in that. Sure, we are free to make choices. It's great to be able to follow through on the desires of one's heart, when it's a choice to buy a certain t-shirt or learn to speak Danish. But, when the desires hit the core of who we are, something changes. I wanted to get married for such a long time before I did. All I can say is I thank the Lord that I didn't marry in my 20s. I shudder to think what my life would be like if I had. We wanted to have children right away, and lots of them. That didn't happen. We can want things, but we don't enjoy this illusory control that gives us what we want with a simple decision. At least, that's not the way my life has worked.
I spent a lot of time moaning and crying and griping and complaining to God about both my marriage prospects and my desire for children. Really, the infertility thing broke me, deeply. If children were this wonderful gift from God I could not understand why we were so out of His favor to struggle so. But I think what the Lord wanted of me was that He would become my "Bucket" so to speak. In the midst of caring for a foster son whose adoption was pending and pending and pending, making it so that we could not pursue another adoption while, for a time, living with the possibility of losing him, and at the same time finding it impossible to become pregnant, I finally came to the point of switching my prayer from, "Lord, please do this for us!" to "Lord, here is my life. Do with it whatever You want." Instead of having my bucket full of my desires that I set out to get fulfilled, I reluctantly gave the whole thing to Him. After such a wrestling match it felt more like defeat than surrender.
And yet, God is always to be trusted. We did have a daughter, and we finalized our son's adoption. More importantly, these things were part of God's plan leading me closer to Him and healing my soul. That's what's in God's bucket for me. I know now that His plans always turn out better than mine, even though His can hurt an awful lot (especially when I resist) and frequently leave me confused for a time. But never, ever has God proven unfaithful to me. He always works everything to my good and helps me bear my own mistakes.
So the only thing I want on my bucket list these days is to wake up every day that I get, offer the day to God to be His, come what may, and to have the love and grace in my life to follow as closely as I possibly can the directives He presents.
He gives me so much more, besides.