The 2007 movie the Bucket List, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, made it to the Academy Awards because it resonated with millions of people. We could identify with Morgan Freeman’s character, a man who had dreams he wanted to fulfill before he died. For many of us, if we didn’t have a bucket list before that movie, we did after.
My bucket list has several things on it, some of which may be on yours. I want to travel to Egypt and see the pyramids. I want to see the Redwood Forest in California. I want to write a bestselling book. And I want to go to the Academy Awards.
When my husband and I were discussing our bucket lists, this one came as a surprise to him. “Really? The Academy Awards?” he said, a puzzled look on his face. “That would be kind of cool, but I’ve never heard you mention that before.”
Oh yes. I’ve always wanted to go to the Academy Awards.
In my younger year I watched the Academy Awards every year. My girlfriends and I were avid readers of the tabloids and knew all of the actors by name, age and dress size. Many of my early years as a stay-at-home mother were spent flipping through the latest version of US Weekly or People, reading the latest gossip on who was having an affair with whom. And what was the hottest fashion trend that season. My personal favorite was the What Not To Wear section featured in the back of the magazines. In it, expert fashionistas would deftly and comically rip apart the unfortunate ensemble of some pop icon. My friends and I would eat it up, adding our own comments.
I always saw being at the Academy Awards as some great achievement.
Oh, to be in a room with that much fame, fortune and stature. To me, talent took a back seat to the diamonds, good looks and ridiculous amounts of money that would engulf me as I sat among the stars. I never had the desire to be one of them, just rub shoulders with them. I just wanted to inhale their wealth and popularity. I thought that if I got lucky, some of their good fortune would rub off on me.
One year, during the height of my idol worship, I researched the Academy Awards to see if average nobodies like myself could actually buy a ticket. Just as I thought, this was not an option, exactly. Hollywood award ceremonies, like most award ceremonies, are more about illusion than excellence. Oh, don’t get me wrong. There are many worthy works of art and artists that receive well deserved recognition. But to us, the people on the other side of the flat screen, it’s about fantasy and illusion.
We see brightly shining diamonds. They’re on loan from Harry Winston. We see beautifully cut dresses wrapped against flawless bodies. The Spanx never show. We see perfectly straight, brighter than white teeth, smiling into our living rooms. The coffee and cigarette stains were bleached away hours before. And we see joy in the eyes of the happy couple, Hollywood love on the red carpet. The divorce papers were filed the following day.
But to me, being there would have been enough. And I discovered that I could go as a seat filler. That’s right. Because to the viewers at home, the illusion of grandeur and perfection has to be maintained at all times. What would we think if there were empty seats at such a glitzy event as the Academy Awards? I mean, really? If the stars don’t want to attend, then it can’t be that good, right? Why should I watch if they can’t even fill the house? So seats are raffled off for a price.
Would I have done it? You bet! And if I had, I know I would have loved it. I would have sat among Hollywood royalty. I would have dined with kings, laughed with queens and applauded with fame. No one would have ever read my name off of a card, and I certainly wouldn’t be escorted off the stage by a Venus-like model, holding my shiny Oscar. But I would have acted the part. And no one sitting at home would have ever known the difference.
I have long since overcome my adoration of all things Hollywood. But I find that I still only act the part in my faith life.
And I know other people do it, too. Are you a seat filler for God? When you finally attend the greatest award show of all, and we all will, will you be sitting in the audience unnoticed? Or will your name be called? Will the holiest academy of all recognize your contribution?
Too many of us are seat fillers. I have been one. Who knows? Maybe I still am. I know I’m not alone. I go to church and see the same people in regular attendance every week. But when they leave, do they discard their Vera Wangs and don their Dockers, back to normal life? Do they look like a star one hour a week, only to be unrecognizable the rest of the seven days? Or after the show, do they get into character, their true character, and risk embarrassment at the expense of great achievement? Do they try to hone their God-given talents and bring joy to the audience of mankind regardless of whether they ever get an Academy Award or not? All true stars do. They strive to be the best at what they do. Have you ever cried at a movie? Have you laughed so hard you almost peed during a great comedy? The artists responsible have touched millions and their works have moved us. Some have even changed our lives.
For all of us seat fillers out there, when’s the last time we’ve touched someone else’s life? When have we chosen, rather than sitting idly by as others take the risks, to actively strive to use the gifts God gave us to make a difference?When have we made the conscious decision, after the sermon and snacks, to be a star for God? And whether we feel qualified or not, God made us to shine for him. No raffles here folks. There’s only one way to get to the ultimate award show – we must use the talents he blessed us with to bless others. Taking what we do and using it to impact others for God guarantees us not only an invitation, but also a pretty good shot at getting the greatest award of all.
– from Confessions of a Clumsy Christian – Unqualified (get more information here)