So, not many movies work to both entertain me, move me, and get me to thinking. Honestly, it’s probably because I avoid emotional movies like my dog avoids me when I have a rolled up newspaper. Usually, I’d rather laugh or be thrilled, but my wife planned our date night tonight, so we went to see the movie “The Bucket List.” We had a great night, and the movie gave us a lot to talk about. Like all movies, there were elements that demonstrated our human depravity, but I was awed by some of the key themes presented.
The movie is about two men, Edward Cole (played by Jack Nicholson) and Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman). These two men meet in the hospital where they both learn that they have terminal diseases, and have less than a year to live. Cole is a ridiculously wealthy, but lonely man, while Chambers is a family man who has lived with a modest income. Rather than sulking over impending death, the two men make a list of things they would like to accomplish before they “kick the bucket”, hence the name of the movie. The two build a great relationship as they journey all over the world together, fulfilling the list. I won’t go any farther in sharing the plot, lest I give it away, but the movie got me thinking about some Gospel oriented issues raised by the two men.
First, I was amazed at the level of spiritual thought in the movie. Cole is pretty much a non-spiritual man, while Chambers is deeply spiritual. The movie contains several dialogues between the two men about the importance of faith, and making considerations about the afterlife. It was refreshing to hear belief in God in such a positive light. While the movie does not ultimately present the Christian faith exclusively, it comes close. The significant thing is how the interactions in the movie present a good model for followers of Jesus, because the spiritual discussions took place in the context of relationship. No canned evangelism presentations here, just simple discussions between men with differing views. I was reminded that I need relationships with some people who hold differing views of God and life, and if God so wills, hope that there will be relational opportunities to share my faith in God.
The movie also made some very clear statements about the things that matter in life. Cole is wealthy, and pretty much has everything the world has to offer, but that has left him lonely and discontent. Chambers spent his life working as a mechanic, but had a wonderful wife, great family, and strong faith. As you watch the movie, it is easy to see that the poor man was really rich, and the rich man was actually the poor one. As they take their adventure, both are confronted with the realization that life is about more than self-fulfillment and accruing wealth. There are greater things to live for!
The final thought I have is about reverse engineering my life. These two men know their day is drawing near, so they set out a plan to accomplish everything they dreamed before that day actually arrived. The Bible teaches us that we should always live this day in anticipation of that day. This is one of the key themes in the Scriptures for those who follow Jesus, that we should live life to the fullest, living for the last day. The characters in the movie had spent their lives with dreams that were unfulfilled, primarily because they had done nothing to make them happen. The horrible news of their impending death kick-started their living for something great. This got Heidi and I talking about how we can live life for that day. This is more than skydiving or climbing the Pyramids (although that might be fun). Reverse engineering is the idea that I set some goals that I clearly want to see take place in my life, and then chart a course to get there. It means that I determine the things that matter most to God, and I don’t wait until my deathbed to pursue all that He has! I want my life to count, to matter for God and His Kingdom! I could tell you specifics, but that would be my bucket list. The question for you is this, how would you live this day differently if it were lived in anticipation of the day (Hebrews 10:25)? Jesus warned his followers that they needed to live in such a way that they are always ready (Matthew 24:36-44). Making a bucket list is not a bad idea, especially if the focus is living for the glory of God.
By the way, Heidi and I did decide that if we ever get the sort of report the men in the movie received, and if we were able to live that last few months with energy and vitality, we want to smuggle Bibles into Tibet.