There are two ‘tones’ to the word, “whatever.” One says: I concede, I don’t care, I give up, I wash my hands of this mess. If you talk with your hands (like me), you throw them up in the air, palms out, fingers stiff and pointed upward. Think of Pilate refusing to take responsibility for Jesus’ death (Matt 27:24). The other ‘tone’ says: I accept anything, I don’t have an opinion, it doesn’t matter to me. Your open hands are in front of you with palms up, a sign of surrender. I’m talking about the latter.
When we offer ourselves to God as his servants, we often say, “Yes, Lord, whatever you want.” But we inadvertently put restrictions on it. Really, we mean “whichever you want” from a limited set of possibilities. I heard or read this analogy a long time ago:
“What kind of sandwich do you want?”
“Oh, whatever you have, but not tuna salad or plain cheese. Actually, do you have a turkey-and-swiss? That’s what I really want.”
Here’s another not-original-to-me example (meaning someone pointed it out to me). In Acts 1, the disciples needed to replace Judas. So they chose two men, then they prayed, ‘Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry . . .’ (Acts 1:24-25). They ended up picking Matthias, but you never read anything about him again in the Scriptures. Not that I have better judgment than the disciples, but maybe . . . just maybe . . . they should have prayed first, then started choosing people.
The challenge He places before us is about being COMPLETELY open: “whatever you want, Lord”—without limitations, restrictions, even hesitations—even if it seems completely backward or off-the-wall . . . even if it reverses or impedes the path we thought He had laid out for us . . . even if we have to take back stated plans and/or honest intentions.
Even if we have to eat cold hot dog and tomato sandwiches.