Recently I was preaching in one of our Mississippi Baptist churches and I met a lady who blessed me with her delightful and joyful spirit. As I talked with her, I could detect an accent that revealed maybe she had come from another country and English might not be her native tongue. I asked her where she was raised. She smiled and said, “You hear my accent.” I replied “Well, a little bit but your English is almost perfect as far as I can tell.” She said, “I grew up in Germany.”
Decades ago she came to the U.S. and this has been her home ever since. She married here, raised her family here, and this is home. As we visited about how and when she got to the states, she told me about her struggles to learn English. Arriving here speaking very little English and knowing less about American ways, she ran into a problem one day at the store. She had gone to a store to pick up three items. She got them and checked out and the lady at the cash register handed her the receipt. She looked at it and said, “I did not buy ‘tox.’” The cashier said she did and tried to explain. “No, I bought this and this and this,” the German lady pointed out. “Three things, but I did not buy tox.”
The cashier began to explain that was “tax,” an item the store was required to charge and that she really hadn’t gotten something else. Well, she had, but she didn’t know it. She was befuddled by all of that and again tried to explain to the cashier that she only got three items, not four, but there it was clear as the nose on your face. She had been charged for some tox.
Now, many years later, she is fully aware of tox in America. Whether it’s a tax system or income tax or tax on services or tax on goods, we’ve got some tox in America and all of us, whether we want to or not, are participating. As she adjusted to American life, she found out what taxes were for sure. Not only what they were but how much they were, and she began to realize taxes are what you pay for that you don’t see that you get but that you might get later or help pay for something that you didn’t even want. It’s our system, and we all get stuck with tox.
It’s not unlike life in its totality for all of us. There are things we pay for that we didn’t want, didn’t ask for, and maybe can’t even use. They are the tox of life. I think about the wise man of the Old Testament as he wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.” In the long series of things that he names, he clearly is outlining life.
It is seldom that you can live a day without some moment, some conversation, some experience that you would rather not have and you could do without and may at the moment not seem like it means anything to you at all, and I guess to borrow a word coined by the German lady, it’s the tox of life. We celebrate the arrival of a child far more than we celebrate the homegoing of a saint, but both are a legitimate part of life though we probably see many of those things as the tox.
I think about the many times in the Bible when events occurred in people’s lives that they probably didn’t appreciate, didn’t want, didn’t ask for, and rather would not go through. Tox moments. The long, arduous process of building an ark for Noah to save his family — a tox experience that turned out pretty good. Three Hebrew boys who wouldn’t bow to the king and living in that foreign country they were going to be thrown into the fiery furnace — a tox moment. Only to find out that it’s one of the glorious moments of the Bible. King Nebuchadnezzar looked into the fire and saw not the three he had thrown in there, but four — one likened to the son of God — for the Lord Himself had shown up to be with those three in the midst of their fire. Tox.
Every one of us have those events in our lives that, as we move along, we immediately get the receipt on the goods of life and wonder what is this tox. We all experience them. One of the greatest moments in your life can be when you learn in every case to turn to God. Not to complain and belly-ache about the tox of life, but to praise and trust Him for He will guide you through whatever the tox may be.
Another thing about the tox that this German lady was sharing with me is that she learned what they are for, what they are on the receipt of life for. It takes a little time to understand and appreciate and in time maybe deeply appreciate. What do taxes do anyway? When you stop and think about the full picture of taxes at work, you can make a case that some of them are misspent but we do have pretty good roads to travel on provided by our tax base. You and I enjoy education. It may not be a free ride through life but an opportunity for us and for our children and our grandchildren to learn and to grow and to be bright, participating adults in our world.
We enjoy all day, every day, many things our government is directly involved in because of our taxes and provide clean air and clean water and 24-hour protection of our lives, our homes, our businesses. Protection whether it’s an invasion of criminals or a fire that inadvertently started or was set by someone else. Still, as quickly as possible and to the best of their ability, men and women who are trained show up all because of our tox.
How grateful I am for the teachers and law enforcement officers and emergency rescue people who serve so faithfully 24 hours a day, and what I’m probably most grateful for is that though so seldom called by me, so seldom have they had to come to my house or my church, it is a glorious blessing to recognize the tox we have and to think in larger terms of the blessing when we don’t need them.
It takes a little time and some effort and maybe even some insight and wisdom from God to begin to see life with all of its struggles, with all of its problems, with all of its down sides, to see that when you pick up a few things at the store, there on your receipt is a tox and to say, “Thank you, God, for all that it does to bless all of us and most of all Lord, thank you that I haven’t needed what the tox pays for.”
As you breeze through life today, it might be helpful if you count all the smooth roads you go down rather than spend all your time counting potholes. Maybe today, in a little bit different way, you can look at what God has provided in bountiful blessings to us here in America that so many people in the rest of the world would give anything to have the availability and even to participate with tox so they can have the blessings that come.
I left talking to that lady and went on my way thinking about her coming to our land, struggling to learn our language, struggling even more to see our system, and coming to say, “I am glad to be here and even to pay the tox.”
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Jim Futral