I thought I knew what my Lenten journey was going to look like this year—but I was mistaken.
I thought I was so busy and distracted that, as I wrote last week, my Lenten discipline was to simply rest in God’s presence. I thought that I needed to find balance in work and rest, focus and release.
It would appear that God thought differently. One week into Lent, I received notice from the State of New Mexico that we were being audited for Gross Receipts Tax for the year 2014. New Mexico is one of the few states that taxes services, and the long and the short of it is that Henry and I both have to prove that the significant bulk of our income was either from clergy services or delivered to out-of-state clients, both of which are exempt from those taxes.
It’s been—pardon the phrase—a pain in the butt to prove this. I have not before been subjected to such an outright adversarial attitude, where someone is determined to prove that I am doing something wrong. It amazes me that a 1099 from a client doesn’t prove that the money came from out of state. It amazes me that a client’s website, clearly stating that they are out of state, isn’t proof enough. I’m amazed that…well, I really shouldn’t keep going down that road. I’ve lost a lot of sleep the past few weeks, being amazed at the hoops I’m having to jump through to prove that these clients are, indeed, out of state.
It makes me angry—and anger is, of course, what’s driving so much in this country right now. The adversarial attitude that is endemic to our government—clearly, at all levels—is part of what is tearing this country apart, I believe. Which is part of why I’ve been so upset in being forced to deal with it on a personal level, when I have studiously avoided becoming engaged with it on the national level, knowing how much it increases my stress and, I fear, makes me less able to be a positive, supportive force for good in the midst of this divisive, combative culture.
But somehow, for some reason that I do not yet understand, I am being forced into it anyway. Far too early yesterday morning, I was wrestling with “Why haven’t I been able to write this Sunday’s blog yet?” My mind kept returning to this audit, but I really didn’t want to write about it until I could present it as a completed package, all wrapped up and pretty, with the lessons learned and able to be shared. I kept striving to turn toward something else, and God kept pulling me back.
Suddenly, these words of Jesus came to my mind: “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.”
So I got up and wrote. This is not the pretty-package version. It’s the “struggling in the midst of it all” version. It’s the “not sure how this will end, but doing my best, hour by hour” version. It is, frankly, where most of us live, most of the time. It takes a while to get to the point of learning the lessons. It takes time, and distance, to discern the silver linings in the clouds that block the sun in our lives.
So here I am, stressed and struggling—and angry about having to be here. I don’t know why I need to write this today, but I’m trusting God. Perhaps some of you who read this might need to feel accompanied in your own struggles. Perhaps you need to know that you’re not the only one facing an unsought, undesired adversarial situation.
Shall we hang in there, together, one hour at a time? Shall we join Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane?