[This is chapter 13 of “How God Guides.” Did you ever have a “Whatever”? If not, do you want one? If so, how will you keep it and not lose it like I did? If you do lose it, how does one get it back? All very deep theological topics…]
I was in the darkest season of my life and I didn’t know that I had lost my “whatever” until I was having a conversation with the Lord, when I must’ve switched into auto-pilot for a moment. I began to recite what I’d been saying to the Lord for over 35 years: “I’ll do whatever you want me to.” But the sentence didn’t come out. I stopped it from escaping, and my perfunctory prayer got truncated. I said, “I’ll do what…” and then, as I recall, I almost put my hand over my mouth like a dam in front of a river. I realized that I wasn’t willing to make this grandiose promise anymore. I remember saying something like:
“Wait! That’s not true. I’m not going to say that. I used to say I’d do whatever – I’ve said it hundreds, maybe thousands of times over the years, and I meant it every time (as far as I can recall) – but not today. I used to pray the “Whatever Prayer” to you, but it turns out that you didn’t have my back. I’ve always been willing to do whatever you wanted me to, but it seems to me that you didn’t make the same commitment to me. It appears that while I was willing to do whatever it took to do the things that I thought were important to you, you weren’t willing to do for me whatever it took to keep me from losing the things that were important to me. For now, I’m just letting you know that I’m just not willing to do “whatever” anymore. At least for now, “whatever” is not part of my prayer vocabulary, and from now on I’m going to be more careful about the promises I make to you.”
I think the core issue of my lost “whatever” was really a loss of trust. I simply didn’t trust God like I had before. He’d let me down (at least from my vantage point at the time) and I wasn’t willing to expose myself unreservedly to him again. “Whatever you want, Lord” was not going to proceed out of my mouth again until at least we got some things straightened out between us.
Over time, many thanks to the God who is willing to suffer long with me, I noticed that my “whatever” began to make a comeback. My losses weren’t exactly reversed, I was starting to learn to live joyfully in spite of them, and my “truster” was beginning to heal. I could tell I was rehabbing when I heard myself pray the “Whatever Prayer” once in a while without balking or stuttering. In the beginning, my prayers had a shelf life and a limited scope. They went something like, “Lord, I’ll do whatever you want me to at this event…” – or – “I’ll say whatever you want me to in that conversation with that particular person…” I was putting my toe in the water before jumping in. I wasn’t ready to run up any banners or sign any long-term contracts; but I was making headway back to more of an all-encompassing recovery of the “whatever mentality.” Though I can’t recall the day or the method by which I progressed from one stage to another toward a healthier attitude of trust, it dawned on me one day that I was nearing the kind of abandoned confidence in God to which I had been accustomed in the past. Eventually the shelf life increased and the scope broadened of my whatever, until one day I realized I had gotten it back entirely, with maybe even a greater conviction than before.
I think one key to knowing what to do is being willing to do “whatever” he wants us to do. He seems to like it when we don’t have caveats on what we’re willing to do. He said to one of his prophets, “You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.” Jeremiah 1:7 “Whatever” he commands is what he expects, and to my excuses for anything less he offers nothing but irresistible rebuttals. “I’m too young, too old, too weak, too…” He doesn’t seem to care. Whatever!