As I get a bit older and realise that the first half of my life is gone, never to come back, I think more about what life is about and what I want from it.

I am easily seduced by our culture and its values of wanting to pack in as much as we possibly can. I find myself wanting to experience as much as possible. I am afflicted with the disease of the age: FOMO - fear of missing out. There is so much information at our fingertips in this day and age that we easily become victims of choice anxiety. We don’t want to commit to something for fear of missing out on something better.

For years I have been aware of my life wanting to have meaning. I want my life to count; I don't want it to be wasted. I don't want to get to the end of my life and be struck with the horror that that is it and there was no trial run. I feel like for years I have sat back and waited for Heaven when I die. Being Christian - and being taught that my eternal destiny matters much more than my life here - has had the ironic effect of not motivating me to be the best I could for this life because I was waiting for the next one. It’s incredible when you think how much unBiblical teaching affects your whole worldview and subsequently, the way you live your life.

 Bucket list

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED?: Nils von Kalm argues that if life is simply reduced to an list of experiences to be fulfilled, it only leaves people wanting more. PICTURE: Glenn Carstens-Peters/Unsplash

 

"As I go through middle-age and see the shallowness of much of our culture’s values, I see more clearly that the most important things in life are the intangibles, the things that can't be seen by the eyes but which touch something in the deepest part of us."

Thankfully I have had better Christian teaching over the years since; teaching that is Biblical and that shows me that being the best I can be in this life has a contribution for eternity. I don’t want to sit back in this life and take it easy. We are not born for that. We are born for so much more.

Deep down I have always believed that, but in my youthful zeal and exuberance, I just accepted what I was taught at the time; it was a matter of ‘faith’, even if I didn’t really feel comfortable with it. As I have grown, my faith has matured and I now am much more questioning. It is in the questioning that my convictions have actually deepened, because my faith is now my own, not just what I have been taught by others. I have learned that what the Berean Christians in Acts 17 did is crucial: to go back to the Scriptures and see whether or not what I am being taught is true.

As I go through middle-age and see the shallowness of much of our culture’s values, I see more clearly that the most important things in life are the intangibles, the things that can't be seen by the eyes but which touch something in the deepest part of us.

This also includes seeing the reality of sin in my life. Not in a shame sense, but in the genuine acknowledgment that I cannot do life on my own. I fail and I need help. I need grace. That’s not an admission of worthlessness; it’s an admission of fact. If anyone thinks they can do life on their own and always do everything right, they are either delusional or lying. There is no such thing as a self-made person.

I am also more consistently aware of and so immensely grateful for the gift of this planet we have been given. When I walk outside in the middle of the night and look up at the sky and see the stars and notice the curvature of the earth, I just marvel at the fact that we get to live on this planet; we get to have life, we get to explore, we get to marvel, we get to wonder. I remember someone once talking about an agnostic who had the same sense and had this overwhelming urge to thank someone. I have an inbuilt sense of gratitude to God for the gift of existence on this wonderful planet. It partly explains why I am so passionate about caring for the earth. Childhood holidays in the outback with my family have given me a love of nature, and Christian faith has made more sense of it and of the need to protect it.

"All of these discoveries are teaching me that life is not about experience; life is about being. When I find myself constantly trying to pack more things in, I am always on edge. There is a sense of agitation; a lack of internal peace."

All of these discoveries are teaching me that life is not about experience; life is about being. When I find myself constantly trying to pack more things in, I am always on edge. There is a sense of agitation; a lack of internal peace.

I know why so many people want to slow down as they go through the second half of life. We want to stop and smell the roses. Yes, that's a cliche, but a cliche is a cliche because it's true.

What really matters when it all boils down to it? It is the things that touch us most deeply that have the most lasting effect on us. Experiences are good; there is nothing inherently wrong with them. But if our life's goal is to pack as much in as possible, the irony is that it is then that we are missing out and we will always have a nagging sense of never having enough, of always needing more.

I love how the Old Book talks about life like this. The writer of Ecclesiastes talks about chasing after the wind and it all being meaningless. And Jesus Himself talks about building your house on the rock, on the things that will weather the storms of life. They are the things that really matter in the end. That is why I don't have a bucket list.