I love making lists. The more detailed the list, the better. (Read: The more chances I have to cross things off said list!) Although I have a deep affinity for creating lists, I do not have a Bucket List—that is, a list of things I want to do before I die. If you have one, I think you’re forward thinking and organized, and I’m a little bit jealous.
As of right now, the only item I’d know to add to my informal and undocumented Bucket List is this:
1. Make a Bucket List
So I have some work to do.
Actually, I think I’ve spent a lot of my life making a different kind of list. I haven’t literally written out this list, but it’s one I think about much more often than a Bucket List. It is a sort of Anti-Bucket List, I suppose: Things I’ll never do—never, ever. These are things I refuse to make room for in my bucket.
Here’s how that list is going:
1. I’ll never be a missionary in a different country.
(I spent two years living in Australia and traveling to Southeast Asian countries for 8 weeks at a time…as a missionary.)
2. I’ll never go to school again after receiving my bachelor’s degree.
(I graduated with my master’s degree in 2013.)
3. I’ll never pay to run outdoors.
(I registered, paid for, and completed a half marathon outdoors in Vancouver, BC in 2014.)
4. I’ll never be a pastor.
(I became the Community & Discipleship Pastor at City Church in 2017.)
So I have some work to do.
Listen, I’m not here spouting out all of these things I’ve done just to earn a few pats on the back. I’m the one who didn’t think I could accomplish anything, so that’s nothing to applaud. I simply threw out a few hearty nevers in an attempt to make everyone believe that I was living a mediocre life because that’s what I wanted. The thing is, however, I seem to have written my list of nevers in pencil, so to speak.
“Never” can be a helpful word when we’re seeking to better our health in any number of areas in our life. “I’ll never drink soda again,” for example, is a fantastic goal and one that is obtainable. When we start using “never” while talking about [healthy] opportunities, goals, or possibilities for our future, we’re opening ourselves up to be wildly surprised at all of the unexpected places God can take us to in this life.
When I look back on all of those things I said I’d never do, the underlying theme jumps right out at me. It was resistance—a resistance to living up to my potential and believing that I could have an impact on others. I said I’d never do those things not necessarily because I didn’t want to do them, but because I didn’t think I could do them.
Here’s the thing: “Never” has its place in some scenarios, but it can easily sneak into our vocabulary, and soon we’re using “I’ll never…” when we actually mean, “I can’t…” And in those cases, my friends, “never” is futile.
You can go ahead and say it (sometimes I still do), and maybe you even believe it (*raises hand*), but, in the spirit of lists, here’s my advice for you never-lovers:
1. Leave space for God to move in your life.
2. Learn to love surprises.
These last two decades of my life have been filled with some of the best surprises. They aren’t always easy (hello, running 13 miles using ONLY MY FEET, NO WHEELS)—in fact, it’s never been easy—but the growth and experiences I’ve had are far greater than sticking with my Nevers.
The next time you hear yourself saying, “I’ll never….”, take a moment to think about what is attached to the never. Are you making this statement because you truly, absolutely, positively do NOT want to experience whatever you’re speaking of?
Or, does the experience sound intriguing—if only you were smarter, stronger, richer, Godlier, etc.? If that’s the case, I GET IT. But maybe it’s time to take away some of Never’s power. Maybe it’s time to take one teeny tiny step towards pursuing that big and scary thing. Go to an informational meeting about that grad school. Buy a coffee for someone who’s working your dream job and pick their brain. Walk a route you’d someday like to run.
Maybe that thing you said you’ll never do will someday be something you can touch in the form of an updated resume, diploma, or finisher’s medal. Or, maybe God takes you someplace entirely different—some wild and wonderful place you can’t even fathom right now.
There is a time and a place for “never.” My hope is that when we are using “never” as a deterrent because we feel afraid and unworthy, our small steps and big God will disempower the beast of Never. Because, oh my goodness, the worth and ability within you is so much BIGGER than that futile never.