The first time I met my tax guy at his office, I think he might have enjoyed offering me lunch: “Let’s head to the Electric Cheetah.” I know he saw the expression of alarm on my face when he laughed...”It’s not that kind of a place! It’s the best lunch you can find in GR (Grand Rapids).” I’m not sure what you think about when you hear “Electric Cheetah,” but I had visions of the kind of place an ordained Baptist minister shouldn’t be frequenting! I was picturing a dim room, a colorfully lit stage and a shiny pole surrounded by men and one dollar bills. Thankfully, the Electric Cheetah was not a business of ill repute, it was -- as Dan promised -- a fine dining experience!
If you’re going to talk about how much you owe in taxes, the menu at the Electric Cheetah can make the conversation a bit more palatable. Their main menu changes every 3-4 months, and the daily specials are as exotic as the “Electric Cheetah” name implies. As I wolfed down a mountain of brisket mac-n-cheese, Dan explained depressing tax details to me, and I was thankful for a plate of good food.
Tax season can be the pits! There haven’t been too many of our married years when Traci and I enjoyed the April 15th deadline: the complicated tax forms; the frustration of filling out forms only to come up with different answers each time; and have you ever had that sense that once you send everything in, the Tax Man will be knocking on your door to take your prized bobble head collection and explain that you lied on your tax forms?
I’m thankful for a guy like Dan who helps us get the numbers right. Since we’ve moved to Michigan, our taxes have increased in complexity and Dan has been a real life saver. And to boot -- he’s introduced me to one of my new favorite eating establishments. (By the way, if you’re ever in GR, be sure to pop in and taste the offerings of the Electric Cheetah yourself.)
As I write this blog, I’m finishing up my taxes for 2015 and preparing to send off a bunch of files to Dan. It’s another year of which I’m not thrilled to see the end results, but I’ve learned something about bad news: year after year, month after month, week after week and sometimes, day after day -- bad news keeps showing up.
The question isn’t whether or not bad news will show its ugly head in your life, the question is how will you respond? Sure, we can control some bad news in our lives. Getting a ticket for speeding is bad news, but you didn’t have so drive fast. Owing money on your taxes is bad news, but you could have had more withheld or made larger quarterly payments to reduce the debt. Receiving a paper with a giant red “F” written on top is bad news, but if you could have prepared more effectively for the test. Still, each of those is bad news.
The other kind of bad news however, is the kind that smacks you upside the head -- the kind you didn’t expect. For example, the call from your doctor that your routine check-up showed results that were anything but routine; now he wants to do more testing. Or maybe you’ve received a letter from HR letting you know that your job is suddenly coming to an end. I had a friend who recently came home from work only to find her house totally trashed, most of the valuable taken and no sense of who would do such a thing.
How do you respond, then?
I’ve been preaching a series out of Colossians 3 lately, talking about the need for Christians to take off the garments of our old, dead nature, and put on the garments of the new nature. We are supposed to take off the clothing of anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language, lying, sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed (Colossians 3:1-9). These traits emerge in moments when bad news shows up, when the unexpected news arrives in the mail.
Instead, Paul says to put on a new set of clothes: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, love, unity, peace, thankfulness and wisdom (Colossians 3:12-17). Imagine if these qualities showed up in your life when bad news decided to ruin your day. Imagine if the thoughts and words of gentleness and forgiveness rolled off your tongue when your were unexpectedly laid off, or if kindness and thankfulness was your response to a tax bill.
We can’t always control the news we get, but we have a lot of control over our responses. I’m not talking about our feelings: hurt, frustration, pain, sorrow etc... emotions can sneak up on you and can’t be controlled. I’m talking about the words we express and the actions we execute in those moments of shock and disappointment.
How do we make the change from one set of garments to the other? Practice: We have to spend time soaking up truth from God’s Word, letting the qualities of the Bible permeate our hearts and minds. Eliminate: we eliminate the sources of content (media, relationships, jobs, hobbies) that flood our thinking with the clothing of the old nature. Participate: Find a community a people living the Overboard Life who will help you -- and whom you can help! -- in the process of taking off the old and putting on the new. Slip up: That’s right, you will slip up. So acknowledge it, confess it and get back on track! Pray: None of this is possible without the help of God and His Spirit working in and through your life -- ask the Lord for help!
What do you need to work on in order to change the responses that flow from your heart and mouth when bad news arrives? Do you need more practice? Do you need to eliminate some garbage input or is it time for you to participate with a community of believers? Maybe you’ve slipped up and need to get back on track with all of it, or you just need more time in prayer before the Lord? I want to wear the garments of life, and when bad news shows up, so will my new clothes.
Go ahead and take the plunge, life -- and your new wardrobe -- is better on the water!