A bucket list for college students

Bucket list

For those of you who are late-comers to the concept of a “bucket list” (like me), it’s a list of things you want to do, see and/or accomplish before you die (a.k.a. “kick the bucket”). Bucket lists are usually self-centered: travel the world, go bungee jumping, meet Paris Hilton, etc.

I would like to submit to you a “bucket list for college students”–things to do before you graduate. Perhaps I’ve been thinking about college life because I’m getting back into studying after years away (my first day of class in my doctoral program is Tuesday!) or perhaps it’s because I’ve been listening to a lecture series by my alma mater on executive leadership.

Before I go there, though, let me mention that I just listened to an excellent sermon by Paul Washer. One thing he brought up was that many fathers insist they must provide their children with everything they didn’t have growing up. All the while these fathers overlook the fact that these privations formed character and made them the men they are today. If we eliminate every difficulty from our children’s lives, we actually undercut character formation.

Of course, that idea can be taken too far (remember, God gives good gifts to his children–James 1:17). But what if we wrote a bucket list that focused on character growth, not simply visiting Venice or learning to ballroom dance? Maybe it’d look something like this:

6. Turn in a paper early. Admittedly, I didn’t do this in college. But I wish I had. My wife-to-be actually did; her professor was stunned. College student, contrary to what you might think or feel, you are not too busy to do something ahead of time. A frequent conversation I witnessed when I was in college:

Student A: Hi, how are you?

Student B: Fine. I’m soooooo busy.

Student A: Metoooooooo.

Student B: Well, hang in there, I’m off to the beach.

Student A: Thanks. Catch you later. I’m going to play ultimate frisbee.

Life is only going to get busier, so practice time management now. A full time job + spouse + kids + other responsibilities = much busier than any college student.

5. Go on a date. This is not a joke. I went to a Christian college where people (myself included) made the mental leap from first date to wedding bells way too quickly. As a result, no one dated. Guys, in particular, were terrified (me, too). Looking back I realize that getting to know persons of the opposite sex is healthy and doesn’t have to be weird or immoral. Go on a wholesome date without sinning and without feeling like your entire future is riding on it.

4. Develop a discipline of reading the scriptures and praying daily. If you are truly going to have a relationship with God now or after you graduate, this is a must. To reference Paul Washer again, he pointed out that you can’t have Jesus “in your heart” without him influencing your actions. The heart is the center of the person where we make our decisions which we then act out our with our bodies. If our actions and words are ungodly, guess what? God’s not in our heart and he’s certainly not in charge of our life. Reading the Bible and praying fuels our relationship with God and our desire to know him more. If we aren’t reading and praying, it means we don’t want to know him.

3. Kick the sin-guilt-repent-sin cycle. This is a big one, especially for men. The Bible tells us to “flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (II Tim 2:22). This applies to all of us regardless of age or matriculation status. There is much to say about this. As I’ve reference before, this wasn’t something I always had victory in during college. This verse gives us one thing to avoid and three things to do. 1) Don’t court temptation. Run the other way. 2) Go after the right things. Simply avoiding evil won’t work. We need to fill the void with good. 3) Find other people who also want to pursue God. You can ask God to provide these people and he will. In particular, I found that confessing to a pastor or discipler who has learned self-control is much better than confessing to people who have the same problem I do. 4) Call out to God in the name of Jesus to help you. (See next point.)

2. Cry out to God until he answers. Take a look at Psalm 107. Notice that when each person cried out to God with a loud voice, he answered. Charles Finney preached to people who had been going to church all their lives, yet they did not actually have a saving relationship with Jesus. The problem was that years of exposure to the truth without obeying it had caused them to develop hardened hearts. Finney had people go out in the forest and cry out to God until he changed their hearts. Especially at Christian colleges, it’s easy to act religious. But what we should really want is to encounter Jesus in a way that changes not just our mind but our heart.

1. Fast. College is often seen as a time of excess–lots of pizza, Coke, and alcohol (for some). It’s as if our bodily desires are the center of the world. Yet the scripture teaches that Jesus is king, not us. Fasting is a way of saying “no” to ourselves in a practical way and letting God’s kingdom take priority. We find out that we actually don’t live by “bread alone.”

The point of this bucket list is not to check something off and never do it again. The point is to begin disciplines that form character that will shape us for the rest of our lives.

Anything you would like to add to the list? Let me know.

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