Paperwork, procrastination and panic—they touch each other, each pushing the other to greater heights—or depths, depending on one’s perspective. And I, along with countless others, polished the art of procrastination to a mirror finish by putting off collecting my tax information until this past week.
It all seemed so easy last spring. A simple filing procedure meant six more months until this moment. Six months! A lifetime, surely? Or perhaps just a fleeting moment.
Certainly, my conscience was twinging in June. But no . . . more important tasks awaited. A very busy summer with my father’s final illness and death, the birth of a new grandchild, work on the new building plans for Krum United Methodist Church, unexpected repairs to the current facility—all demanded and received my attention. Taxes were always there in the back of my mind. I kept trying to push them out, even knowing at some point I’d have to face them.
Unfortunately, clergy taxes rank high on the complexity scale. It’s not a question of getting the W-2 and a few other things together and asking for some quick help from a professional. For clergy, itemizing is not an option. It’s a necessity. Everything demands careful documentation. Every contribution, every expense, all miles driven—it adds up to a lot of paperwork. I really, really, really don’t like paperwork—especially meticulous work like this.
It gets worse. My husband at the time, also a clergy person, had such a gift for procrastination that I’m often in awe of it. I look like a paragon of paperwork efficiency compared to him. Normally, I’m the one asking him to get his documentation together so it can all go to the accountant. This time, he is the one who has asked repeatedly—and kindly—for me to finish. Yes, panic was growing when I finally forced myself to sit down and work. The taxman had come.Slowly, a picture of my financial life began to appear on my computer screen. I see where money is spent, saved, given, wasted. My panic begins to fade as my confidence grows that I can face this. I have the ability to wrestle this jumble of charts and files and odd pieces of paper into a respectable package for the accountant.
As the panic fades, my gratefulness grows. I don’t make a lot of money, yet all my needs have been met. I rejoice in the opportunities that came my way to give generously. I saw that the more generously I gave, the more freely God was able to give to me. Somehow in the midst of very busy work and tight finances, I managed a trip to Australia to see my first born grandchild, a quick jaunt to California to witness the wedding of a beloved step-daughter, and a sweet vacation with my husband, packed with special memories. Some money was set aside for retirement, little spent on clothes, more spent on books, my major indulgence.
The task was done. I felt this giant sense of gratefulness. Time to say, “Thank you, God, for Your provision in my life. Thank You for taxes, for a government, no matter how flawed, that provides freedom in thought and deed. Thank You for a patient husband and competent accountants. Thank You for the opportunity to give generously, and receive the fullness of Your powerful love.” Giving thanks. What a relief! And what a way to find the presence of God in the midst of piles of paperwork, panic and procrastination.