Ditching the Bucket List
Ann Voskamp, a wife and mother of seven, talks about the meaninglessness of creating a bucket list with exotic places to visit when God calls believers to empty their bucket on others by showering them with love and good deeds. Voskamp elaborates on the beauty of a life poured out on behalf of our ultimate treasure-Jesus Christ.
About the Guest
Ann Voskamp talks about the meaninglessness of creating a bucket list with exotic places to visit when God calls believers to empty their bucket on others by showering them with love and good deeds.
Ditching the Bucket List
Bob: There was a time in the history of the church when Christians were known as “the repenters.” Author Ann Voskamp thinks it’s time for us to recapture that repenting spirit.
Ann: I sat down, and during the course of a week, picked up a journal and a pen and wrote out all the things I wanted to repent of, not just in the last week, but over the course of my life. I cannot begin to tell you what a healing process that is—to really be intentional / not just, “I’m sorry, Lord, for the things that I did wrong this week,”—but to really start to think through. When you actually are intentional about repentance, you love Jesus in a way that is much deeper and more profoundly life-changing than when it’s just sort of a blanket repentance in your life.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, December 5th. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.
How often is genuine repentance a part of the fabric of your family / your relationships? We’ll talk more about living life the broken way with our guest today, Ann Voskamp. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.
Dennis: Bob, could you believe how we were flooded with phone calls yesterday?—all the people calling who wanted to become a donor to FamilyLife Today because we had solved the mystery—[Laughter]—of the name of Ann Voskamp’s husband. [Laughter] The Farmer actually has a name! Ann, thank you for being on our broadcast! [Laughter]
Ann: I surrendered the name voluntarily. [Laughter]
Dennis: We needed donors around here, and you have unlocked—[Laughter]
Ann: My privilege and honor, sir.
Bob: If you’d like to make a yearend donation, you can go online—
Ann: —in honor of Darryl. [Laughter]
Bob: —in honor of Darryl.
Dennis: There you go! Well, if you don’t know Ann Voskamp, you should. By the way, welcome back.
Ann: Thank you.
Dennis: Come back again soon; would you? [Laughter]
Dennis: Ann is the Farmer’s wife / mom of seven; she’s the author of four New York Times bestsellers, and the latest one is called The Broken Way. She lives west of Toronto, about an hour-and-a-half, and lives on a farm, where they raise little piglets.
Ann: Yes; yes.
Dennis: I like your book for a number of reasons, but I like it because you’re feisty. [Laughter] You’re feisty—
Ann: You might be the first—well, no, Darryl has said that a few times. [Laughter]
Dennis: Yes; I’ll bet he has. But you’re feisty because—you were seated outside, in a waiting room—you didn’t say whether it was a doctor’s office.
Ann: Yes; a doctor’s office; yes.
Dennis: Well, with seven kids, it had to be a doctor’s office. [Laughter] You were thumbing through some articles.
Ann: Oh yes! I got myself all riled up on that one; didn’t I? [Laughter]
Dennis: Yes; you did. I really like this, though. Share what you kind of railed about.
Ann: It was a travel article about how you needed to have a bucket list to go to all of these exotic places in the world to really—not only just to experience them for yourself—but to be able to boast about them at parties, that you had been to “x,” “y,” or “z.” I guess I was just really distressed that: “Really, does the meaningfulness and the purposefulness of your life come down to how much you can stick in a bucket?—how many experiences you can experience before you hit the bucket, per se?” [Laughter] When I think that everything in Scripture gives us a much richer, more meaningful way to live our lives—to pour out that bucket / to live with an empty bucket—as opposed to a bucket list.
Dennis: Now, you’re preaching it, girl!
Ann: Yes! So actually, only about—what?—six weeks ago / eight weeks ago, I was at a little Mennonite store, where they actually have lanterns on the walls because they don’t have electricity. I had bought what I needed to buy. As I was up at the till, where bonnet lady was writing out my bill—yes, not Walmart®—[Laughter]—she had a little stack of buckets—little teeny, tiny buckets—about two to three inches high.
I said: “You know what? I’d like a bucket to take home and put right beside the sink—that I want to remember, ‘Lord, I want a poured-out life.’” So, I had that little bucket sitting beside my kitchen sink to remind me: “I don’t my life with lots of bucket lists. I want, when I get to the end of my life, that I have poured that bucket right empty.” Actually, when I got home, I pulled the price tag off the bottom of that little bucket—it was made in China. [Laughter]
Barbara: Of course.
Ann: For some inexplicable reason, engraved in the bottom of this little two-to-three-inch little bucket is the word, “endurance.” I thought, “Oh, that’s so like You, Jesus.” Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him; but as we live our lives poured out, that’s going to require endurance. The only way to live that life that’s broken and given / that life of generosity—
—that life of taking all that grace that we’ve been given and now passing it on—is a life of endurance, that we only find when we keep our eyes on the cross.
Bob: Let me read to you Paul’s bucket list.
Ann: Yes; right?
Bob: This is what he boasts about.
Ann: Yes; yes!
Bob: He says: “Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews 40 lashes, less one. Three times I was beaten with the rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I was adrift at sea, on frequent journeys in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own people, dangers from the Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers;—
Dennis: That’s a dangerous bucket; isn’t it?
Bob: —“in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And apart from other things, there’s the daily pressure of my anxiety with all my churches.” There’s his bucket list.
Ann: But why does Paul choose to live a life like that?—why?—because Jesus is his ultimate treasure!
I think our whole culture tells us to avoid suffering—numb ourselves out from suffering / escape suffering. Jesus says: “No; come and live the broken way. Come and live a life that’s not afraid of broken things, because I’m redeeming everything.” In the midst of those broken places, Christ becomes your ultimate treasure.
Barbara: Well, one of the things that I was thinking, as you were talking about all of this, is: “Why is it so hard to remember what we have in Christ, what He has given, what He has done for us?—just even to remember that He is present with us.” I find myself, walking around a lot recently, saying: “Thank You that You are with me. Thank You that You never leave me,” in all kinds of different situations.
I’ve known that in my head for decades; but to remind myself so that I’m remembering it—so that it’s not just facts in my brain—but it’s a practical sort of an experience as I walk down the hall or as I drive the car:
“Thank You that You’re with me, here in this moment, and You’ll never leave me.”
You talk about how prone we are to forgetting, which reminded me of Psalm 106; isn’t that right?
Barbara: He repeats over and over again, “But they forgot God,” “They forgot His wonders.” That’s so like all of us.
Ann: Yes. I write in The Broken Way, “I wonder if all the bad brokenness in the world begins with the act of forgetting—forgetting that God is enough, forgetting that what He gives is good enough, forgetting there’s always more than enough, that we can live into an intimate communion—and that, ultimately, forgetting is akin to fear.” I think so much of our fear happens because we forget who God is—
Ann: —and remembering heals brokenness. That is why we’re called the “remembering people.” You see that all through the Old Testament—the Israelites, again, were called over and over and over again—they remember who God is and what God has done for them.
So, can we be the remembering people?—remembering the heart of God for us, remembering the cross and the communion and the crucifixion, remembering koinonia / the fellowship we have with Christ, remembering to be broken and given into the world so Jesus can re-member / put together our broken hearts.
Dennis: But we suffer from what I call spiritual amnesia.
Ann: I am a woman of chronic soul amnesia! I say it all the time, Dennis! [Laughter]
Dennis: Yes; but in your book, you call it something else—you call it “God Alzheimer’s.”
Ann: It is! It is God Alzheimer’s: I forget who God is; I forget His character; I forget His heart of goodness towards me. When I forget who He is, I forget who I am in Him.
Ann: And once we forget who we are in Him, that’s when our lives start to unravel on the edges and sort of implode.
Barbara: Well, then, we’re prone to everything.
Ann: Yes; everything.
Barbara: You mentioned fear a minute ago. I think that’s one of the big ones—that was the first emotion Adam and Eve felt when they sinned—was fear. They were afraid; so they hid. I think that’s the foundation of all our brokenness—is when we’re afraid.
Dennis, I remember we talked about this a lot when we were newlyweds. We realized how much fear we brought into our marriage, and it’s so easy to hang onto that and to want to hide from one another.
Barbara: But when we remember who God is and what He has done for us, then fear is put in its proper place; then we can be transparent.
Bob: What do you have engraved in your wedding band?
Barbara: Oh; “Perfect love casts out all fear.”
Ann: Yes; I think, for us to become remembering people, we need to be really intentional. That may mean writing out a Bible verse—and I’m going to stick that beside the sink, or on the mirror, the steering wheel—
Barbara: Yes; whatever it takes.
Ann: —whatever it takes.
For me, a really profound season in my life—I write about it in The Broken Way—is: “Have you memorized your identity in Christ?—that you can remember that over and over and recount it to yourself?” Like David, we often, “O my soul, why are you so downcast within me?” We need to preach gospel back to ourselves, day in and day out; and that takes intentionality to be the remembering people, because it’s too easy to fall into God’s Alzheimer’s throughout the day.
I think to remember, in the midst of my brokenness, my true identity is all summed up in that cross.
Bob: Martin Luther said, “Every week I preach the gospel because every week I forget it.”
Ann: That’s right! It constantly comes back to forgetting; right?
Bob: It’s true. And Martyn Lloyd-Jones talked about this importance of not listening to yourself but preaching to yourself.
Ann: Exactly; talk to yourself more than you listen to yourself; exactly.
Dennis: —and take your own counsel at that point.
It struck me, as I was reading your book—in fact, Barbara pointed this out—she said, “I think we need to ask Ann for her definition of the word, ‘brokenness.’” It’s a word we throw around within the community of faith, but I wonder sometimes if it’s not kind of a catch-all and doesn’t really have the depth that it ought to have.
Ann: Yes; I really believe that all ancient truths are paradoxical / they have two sides to them. I think, when you look at brokenness, there is detrimental brokenness, which is sin, which is anything that is going ahead and harming human flourishing—that is brokenness that God never intended.
Then there’s also deeply beneficial brokenness that we see throughout Scripture—the brokenness of humility, the brokenness of a repentant heart, the brokenness of living broken and given, like bread, out into the world.
I think—to really understand that there is bad brokenness in the world; and then there is really good brokenness that comes through that humility, that vulnerability, that generosity. Ultimately, good brokenness breaks bad brokenness in the world. So: “Can I live a life that’s cruciform?—that’s shaped like a cross?—that literally is embracing humility, vulnerability, and generosity?” That breaks the bad brokenness in the world; because you’re living cross-shaped / you’re living a Christ-shaped life that brings people to what they ultimately want—which is that intimacy / which is that communion with Christ and with each other.
Dennis: We’re back to the bucket again; [Laughter] because, in your book, you said, “The way to life is pouring out your brokenness.”
Ann: It is.
I didn’t realize, when I started this journey, which was very—“Thank You, Lord,” / very humbling—I still was thinking, “I go ahead and I can give during the day to all kinds of people in different ways, but was I really willing to share my broken-heartedness with people?” When you share your brokenness with people—I talk about, in the book, our 14-year-old son, Malachi, who’s diagnosed with Type I diabetes—reaching out and being really transparent about how that totally shook up our world. Sharing my brokenness with someone else—she said: “You know what? You have given to me in a million ways, Ann; but this is the most I’ve ever felt close to you, because now you’re giving me your brokenness.”
I think, so often, we think, “I could be generous in so many ways to somebody,” but “Will I choose the broken way of humility and vulnerability and be generous with my brokenness to someone?”—that can bring you closer than anything else.
Dennis: Ann, you touched on this; but you make an important point about brokenness that results in humility—where you admit who you are, and you acknowledge who God is and that you’re not God—that He is—that He has forgiven us, and He can heal our wounds, and turn those wounds into holy scars.
You say that the word, “repent,” is really a key word for a believer today in dealing with your brokenness.
Ann: Yes; yes. I think of—we bring repentance to the cross at our initial meeting of Christ; and then, after that, we are not a people of repentance, repenting on a continual basis. Martin Luther says that repentance should be the constant posture of the Christian’s life.
I think, in lots of ways, dysfunctionality in relationships comes from a lack of repentance. Dysfunctionality in churches comes from a lack of repentance. If we can have short accounts with each other—if we can confess to each other our own brokenness, our own sinfulness, our own shortcomings with each other and in the church—that’s where healthiness comes from.
When we can go ahead—just like you said earlier, Bob—we go ahead and we turn the lights on in places—and it’s, living in a posture of repentance, brings us back to the cross. Actually, I sat down, and during the course of a week, picked up a journal and a pen and wrote out all the things I wanted to repent of—not just in the last week—but over the course of my life. I cannot begin to tell you what a healing process that is—to really be intentional / not just, “I’m sorry, Lord, for the things that I did wrong this week,”—but to really start to think through all the people that you have sinned against, all the ways that you’ve sinned against the Lord, all of the shortcomings in your own life.
When you actually are intentional about repentance, you love Jesus in a way that is much deeper and more profoundly life-changing than when it’s just sort of a blanket repentance in your life.
Bob: And can we just say, here, that repentance is beyond confession?
Bob: It’s one thing to confess, which is to agree with God that what He said is wrong; you’re saying, “I agree; You are right / I was wrong,” but repenting is saying, “I will now go in a different direction.
Ann: Yes; “I will turn.”
Bob: “I will turn.” A friend of mine shared this with me, years ago; and this was one of those paradigm shift moments in my own spiritual journey. He said, “As Christians, we need to, not only repent daily, but we need to rebelieve the gospel daily.”
Ann: When you live a life of constant repentance—not that you need to get saved again / Jesus holds onto you and never lets go of you—but then the gospel becomes, not something that was the ABCs of the faith, the gospel becomes your everyday complete joy that you can’t wait to share with other people; because you know you need it daily.
Barbara: That reminds me of a time in our family—because I think about how this applies with our kids. You and I talked about this earlier, about how we make so many mistakes, as parents, with our children. Dennis and I had a really good habit of apologizing to our kids when we did things wrong, which was very, very frequent—
—we were apologizing multiple times throughout the day.
But I think there was a mindset that I had, for a time, that: “Everybody makes mistakes. These are just mistakes. I have to apologize when I make a mistake.” But repentance means you come before Christ and you admit your depravity / you admit that you have nothing on your own. I came to a place, with our kids, when I did that; because I realized it wasn’t just that I was a failure at times / it wasn’t just that I had made mistakes; it’s that I was inherently broken. I was inherently flawed, and I did not have the ability in me, at all, to be the kind of mother that my children needed / that I wanted to be for my children.
The only hope I had of becoming that kind of mother was to really be humble, and to repent, and allow Him to do the changing that is needed. I actually did what you did—made this long list of things that I needed to repent of and to come clean of.
And it really was transformational to me, as well, to recognize that—that heart-level depravity—because it’s so easy to think we can cover it up, and we can look okay on the outside; and we deceive ourselves into thinking we’re okay when we’re not okay.
Dennis: And to grieve the impact it’s had on those you’ve hurt—I watched Barbara do this / she’s watched me do it as well—is to express a sorrow / a genuine, heartfelt sorrow for how you’ve wounded people because of your brokenness.
Ann: Yes; and then, don’t stay in that place. Jesus meets us and He washes those wounds with grace: “She who knows she has sinned much loves much.”
Ann: And when you’ve written down all the things—you love Jesus in a very intimate, passionate way—you say: “Here’s my life, Lord. I want to live cruciform / completely given to You; because You gave everything for me to redeem me from my brokenness.”
Looking back at mama’s life—she’s always lived it over and over again—she has said it; and the kids say it now too: “It’s not that you’re not going to get it wrong; it’s what you do with it afterwards.” If you can always come with humility, with that broken-way attitude of repentance, there can be redemption in relationship. It’s not that you have to get it right every time; what will you do with it afterwards? If you can go ahead and choose repentance, God can redeem relationships in those spaces.
Bob: You know, I’m thinking to a message that the three of us heard, almost 25 years ago now, when Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth spoke on the subject of brokenness at a gathering of Cru® staff back in 1993. The thing that stood out to me—she talked about a wild horse and used the term, “You break a horse.” She said: “When a horse is broken, the horse is now ridable. The horse is now under the control of the rider / the master, not doing its own thing, but is responding now to the direction of the master.”
That’s who we want to be; right? Brokenness is a good thing that we should not shy away from but embrace.
Ann: Yes; ultimately, you come to the place of realizing that living a broken and given life, ultimately, is embodied in that word, “surrender.” I guess I’ve come to realize one of the most words is “gave.” “For God so loved the world”—what did He do?—“…He gave...”
One Thousand Gifts was about me giving thanks; and “Now, how do I live the broken way, being broken and given?” Given really is about living a completely surrendered life: “Here I am, Lord. All the grace that You’ve given to me, now go ahead and use it. Let me be a gift back out into the world. Let me live a given life. And also, let me just live completely surrendered and given to You. Use me however You will, Lord.”
Dennis: We’re back to the bucket again—[Laughter]—
Ann: That’s why I have it sitting beside the sink, Dennis.
Dennis: —pouring out your life / giving it away.
Well, you quoted—I forget who it was—but you quoted an author who talked about us being small, little Jesus Christs.
Ann: It’s C.S. Lewis; yes. We’re called to be little Christs everywhere that we go. Culture would have you believe that you need to consume things to have a fulfilling life—that you need to literally fill yourself up—when Christ says the exact opposite. Take that bucket and pour yourself out, and you will find yourself filled up with a far deeper, greater joy. Be that little Christ, which is, really, “How can I live like a cross, cruciform, day in and day out?”
I ended up taking a pen—the same pen that I wrote out a thousand things I was grateful for—and writing a cross on my wrist over the top of the scars, where I had cut myself. Not only am I saying, “This is my new identity,”—my identity is fully in Christ, but this is also—“I want this to be the shape and form of my days—cruciform / shaped like a cross—day in and day out.”
Dennis: And those scars, now—because of the cross that has / that has invaded your soul—those scars are holy scars.
Ann: Holy scars now / holy scars—completely redeemed.
And in Christ, now, I get to go ahead and press His scars into other scarred people’s lives, to say: “You know what? Jesus is a wounded Healer. He redeems all of this.” I think I realized: “Do not be afraid of broken things. Christ is redeeming everything. He’s redeeming those scarred places that you think, ‘Nothing good can come out of this.’ God will go ahead and redeem it and write a story that you can’t even imagine, yourself.”
Dennis: And if you wonder what to do with those broken places—
Ann: —go find someone else who is broken in the same kind of ways! Come alongside that person and say: “I’m going to live a life of compassion, co-suffering with you. I’m going to just live a life of generosity, being broken and given.” Be the gift to that person in the midst of their brokenness, because you understand that brokenness like no one else can!
Dennis: And get a copy of The Broken Way and study it—[Laughter]
Bob: —might help you on that journey; yes.
Dennis: Yes; study it together and create a common vocabulary around the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Bob: Yes; and of course, we have copies of the book, The Broken Way, in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. It’s easy to go online to order—FamilyLifeToday.com—or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to get your copy.
Again, the website—FamilyLifeToday.com—the title of the book is The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp, A Daring Path into the Abundant Life. You can also order by calling 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now, as most of you know, the month of December is a key month for ministries like ours; because a lot of our listeners, who listen all year long, make the month of December the month where they pitch in and help make FamilyLife Today possible. In fact, what happens in December, for a ministry like ours, really determines what the next year is going to look like and how effective our ministry can be in the coming 12 months.
And that’s why we want to ask you: “If God’s used the ministry of FamilyLife Today in your life this year, would you make a yearend contribution and help expand the reach of FamilyLife Today, help us reach more people in 2018?”
We’ve had some friends of the ministry, who have come along, and said they’d like to see that happen. In fact, they’ve agreed to match every donation we receive this month, dollar for dollar. Our friend, Michelle Hill, is keeping track of what’s going on with our matching-gift fund. She is here with an update. Hi, Michelle!
Michelle: Hey Bob! I am tracking and today’s number is up a little from yesterday…you remember we were at a hundred thirty five thousand yesterday…well as of today we’re at one hundred forty seven thousand five hundred forty one dollars toward the two million dollar match…so things have slowed down a little…which makes this a great moment for listeners to jump in and keep things moving in the right direction!
Bob: Sounds good! And if folks would like to take part in the matching-gift challenge, they can go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com to donate; or they can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate. Or you can mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to talk about the cure for anxiety and depression. What happens when you feel anxious or you get depressed, and what does God’s Word have to say about the broken way out of that? Ann Voskamp’s going to be back with us tomorrow. I hope you can be back with us as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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