Can “whatever” really mean “never”? In my case, sadly, it did.
I have always said that I wasn’t meant to do overseas mission trips. That was for someone else. Knowing I had a choice in the matter, I just continued to avoid the topic, happily putting up the funds for other people to serve God in other countries. My health wouldn’t do well “over there,” I said. I have to manage my diet so carefully; it just wouldn’t work.
Yet I made the happy mistake of telling God I would serve him in “whatever.” Beware the whatever, because God will force you to face the real meaning of that word.
If you’re not serious about “whatever,” don’t say it. There’s no place for footnotes or small-print contracts in God’s economy.
I learned the meaning of “whatever” when all my objections got met head-on. Every last protestation was answered, leaving me with nothing more to say than yes. Yes, the meals would be fine. Yes, the expenses will be met. Yes, we have something specific for you to do, that meets your training and education. Yes, we’ve all gone on this trip before and know the ins and outs very well.
My last line of defense, I thought, would be my husband. Surely he would say no; my health couldn’t take the challenge. His words to me were “Well, I guess you’d better get packing then.”
So, my heart in my throat, I boarded a plane and joined 40 others–adults and teens–on a trip to Thailand. There we served faith workers and their children, taught workshops in education issues, brought supplies to a village of refugees, and spent time with elementary school children in a Buddhist school, forging relationships.
At the same time we watched a large handful of American teens learn about serving God in all circumstances, learn about leadership, about unity under pressure, and about their own faith. In a foreign country, away from all things familiar, sick and well, in chaos and in peace their limitations were stretched, and so were mine.
God’s “whatever” is bigger than mine. I’ve learned that my fears and protests were focused on myself, while I had continued to say that I wanted to do whatever he asked me to. Finally, I think, he got tired of me saying “whatever” on my own terms. (Some of us take longer to learn lessons than others.)
In a few short, exciting days, God has changed my focus from a small ministry here at home, to a larger sphere of people. Now I have met some of the families we serve at The Potter’s School, who live all over the world, and my heart is moved. These people live in all sorts of circumstances, reaching out to countless people-groups around the world. Yet they have everyday needs, such as wondering how to educate their growing children where they live.
Yes, Lord, I can serve you by serving them. Whatever.
So while I am back home recovering from jet lag and catching up on ungraded homework, I recall the faces of families overseas, and I know this will not be my last trip–if God will let me do “whatever” again sometime.
My willingness to tell God my own limitations reminds me of a passage in Romans, which tells me that God alone is the One who knows what’s best, and why: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to Him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen” (ASV Romans 11:33-36).
Do I know the mind of God, that I can give him counsel on what’s best for me? I just learned that I cannot, and that’s all the better.
If you’re going to say it, let your “whatever” really mean “whatever,” not “never.”