As soon as people witness my dance skills (read, “my inadvertent ability to impersonate an epileptic chicken”), they write me off as ye average white girl. And they are very, very right. So it surprises many that a significant portion of my childhood was spent on Kauai, a world whirling with island rhythm and swishing skirts. (I tried, I really did. There’s video footage of me attempting to mimic a hula dancer in a crowd and falling over like a loaf of bread. Sigh.) Life there was beautiful, but I think my favorite memory is an honest-to-goodness luau, a feast by the waves. Because I enjoy nostalgia to a weird degree, one of the items on my bucket list is to host my own beachside bonfire at some point.
Please tell me you’ve heard of a bucket list.*
Given enough time and space to think, pretty much everyone has hopes about what they’d like to experience in the span of days allotted them. Don’t believe me? You’ve obviously missed out on the “I’ve Got a Dream” song in Disney’s Tangled. Your list might include having a star named after you, visiting London, or, like me, attending a fancy masked ball. (Personal dance lessons in advance will be mandatory for the public’s safety.) If you’ve never put pencil to paper, it’s a fun exercise.
Back-to-school season is the perfect chance to set some new goals and think outside the box. But as we jot down our hopes, I wonder if we might ask God what His goals for us include?
While I’m dreaming of the perfect sunset-lit table with the ocean in the background, He’s dreaming of how He will renovate my heart. (I feel like my dream will taste better than His at this point. Heart renovation typically tastes like blood, sweat, and tears. Specifically His blood and sweat, my tears.) My Pinterest boards are brimming with gauzy dresses and alluring masks; His imagination spins with which flavor of grace I’ll speak in the heat of battle and the kind of patience those who get on my nerves will know me for. (Does this sound laughable and terrifying to anyone else?)
God is after our hearts, friends, and He won’t stop short of fulfilling His mission. He’s planting the fruit of the Spirit among the cracks in our armor, and one glory-blazing day, we’ll bust wide open at the seams with His smile wide on our faces.
Granted, heaven’s priority list includes items I would never, ever, ever want to add to my own bucket of hopes: suffering well, deeply loving enemies, living in a constant awareness of my vast brokenness. Finding security in nothing but the King. Meeting real-life terror with peace. Exuding faith in the dark. Humility. Courage. Holiness. Perseverance.
I guess humanly speaking, there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that we’re not perfect, and that the process God uses to refine us will not be comfortable.
Aren’t you glad there’s forever good news?
It’s the gospel, as always. The good news is that we have the opportunity to freely express our love as the Spirit does the work in us of making our hearts look like Christ’s. Did you hear that? The pressure is off. It’s not our work; it’s His. We just submit to it and joyfully respond to the goodness we’re shown.
Yeah, yeah. That’s all nice and theoretical, right? Let’s get down to the nitty gritty here. Think of a hard situation you’re facing right now. What do you want to happen?
Now consider: what might God want to do in your heart through this?
The times of struggle in our lives aren’t blows against God’s good plan for us—they are God’s good plan for us. How might He be longing to use your uncertainty, your hurt, your waiting, your circumstances to reshape your soul? You might want answers; He might want faith and peace. You may desire a healthy marriage; He may desire gentleness and forgiveness. When we empty our buckets and hold them up to Him with hopeful expectancy, then we recognize something.
It’s all an invitation to dance with Him. On His shoes so we don’t knock anyone over.
*If you haven’t, we’re still friends. The basic concept is a personalized bunch of priorities to do before you “kick the bucket.”