When Your Big “But” Gets in the Way


I feel like the IRS and I have a pretty good relationship. I mean after all, I’ve been a reliable partner supporting their cause for fifty years. I’ve done my giving and they’ve done their taking. It works. Not only that, I’ve learned the IRS phone tree so well that I don’t have to wait for instructions anymore. It’s just 111112 and I’m in the queue. However, I do wish they’d change their hold music. After an hour and eight minutes listening to it on the speakerphone, it gets on my nerves. That was last night. I never got thru.

I tried again this morning, but my kids were having none of my need to sit at the desk with all of my IRS official correspondence laid out in front of me, and my phone set directly in my line of sight ready to be snatched up the second a human voice broke in on a beat. I’m telling you, it’s rattling to finally hear a human start reciting his or her agent ID number, grab the phone in a fluster, and then accidentally hang up because, instead of touching the speaker icon, I’ve touched the little red dot that says “end call.” Clearly, achieving the connection requires a careful hand and a solid plan. Successful IRS communications don’t just happen.

You may be wondering why I’m trying to reach them. Well basically, it’s because I can’t let go of the need to control things. It’s the big “but” problem. I’ve been, in my way, talking with God about this since yesterday afternoon. He’s not really saying much other than things like, “Who do you think I am?” or “What makes you think I don’t have this?” And my response has been, “But I just want to be sure they’ve received all of my documentation because their reply letter wasn’t specific and maybe they didn’t get everything…” Blah blah blah.

We’ve continued to go back and forth like this for the past few hours. My last big “but” was this: “But isn’t it just being responsible to reach out and confirm they’ve received my amended documentation?” That’s when my rational voice stuck her nose in it and said, “You bet. That’s the way things get done ‘round here.” And as soon as she said it, I got a swirling noisy feeling in my gut, a sure sign that she was wrong again. Not that I recognized it right away. After all, she does make sense. So I pondered it for a while, rehearsed my opening line for the call, and was immediately enveloped by a malaise of anxiety. Another sure sign that I was on the wrong track.

My rational voice didn’t give up, and if I had let her, she would have driven me into a state of victim-osis (victim-osis: a ranting state of anger and frustration about life and how it’s unfair, and nobody understands me, and I’ve worked so hard it’s not right that anyone should threaten my future…and so on and so forth). When victim-osis sets in, the big “but” grows into a full-out noise storm that usually drives me to drink not just one, but two glasses of wine! After six pm, of course, but still, you get my point. I end up whacked out.

Slowly but surely, I’m learning how to avoid the state of “whacked-outness”, each time more quickly catching myself before I drift too far down a deep dark path. The key is to ask God what He wants me to see. It’s best if I ask while sitting in the shade of the back patio. Alone. I can see better out there.

I asked. Here’s what He showed me. When certain kinds of threats appear on the horizon, they trigger a “cordoning off” of my life. In other words, it’s easy to “deed the circumstantial space” to Him when the risk of things going wrong is small or inconsequential. In those cases, I know I’ll be fine or I’ve already come up with a fallback if things don’t go well, so I’m willing to do what He’s asked and then let things unfold. I think I’m all in, but I’m really not: I’ve got a contingency plan. It’s not a conscious thing; it’s just how I process surprises and keep my life on track.

This IRS thing isn’t like all the other “things.” This one is screaming for me to keep the ropes up and take charge of fixing the problem. The consequences are of no small impact. I very much want to avoid a potential misunderstanding because of a missing piece of documentation. It’s obvious that a simple phone call would put my fears to rest.

But I can’t make that call. Not now. God is using this situation to show me that my big “but” is getting in the way, and that this thing, along with all other things, is no big thing. For Him, that is. He wants me to know what it feels like to trust Him with every thing in my life, even if it means I may end up a bag lady at the end.

Sorry, old habits die hard.