Until recently I considered the phrase “lesser of two evils” in a negative light. Faced with two options neither of which was good, the advice goes, take the option causing the least amount of negative consequences. But is that the only way to view this phrase? I think not.
Last year for Father’s Day my daughter and her family made the almost 1,700 mile trek to Illinois for the first time since her wedding. Although I love my daughter and like my son-in-law, I looked forward most to seeing my two grandchildren. Eight months earlier my wife and I visited them and I enjoyed the walks with my active grandson and holding my four month old granddaughter. I anticipated having fun with both of them.
That was not to be. My grandson came to me readily; even at times when I needed a break. Not so the little one. She took to her grandmother and to her auntie, but if I looked at her, she grabbed the closest leg and clung to it peeking occasionally to see if I still showed interest in her. Initially I thought her reluctance would wear off as she observed how friendly her brother was with me. Then I resigned myself to accept her reserve and wait for her to warm up to me.
The heat of June did nothing to thaw her winter. I stayed close and even though she, while securely held by her mother looked at me and let me approach, remained aloof. The activities of the visit didn’t help. Trips to Medieval Times, Great America (I did push the buggy, but she slept most of the time), Lincoln Park Zoo, and a White Sox game all proved diversions from any strategy I could concoct to entice her.
For me the highlight of the visit was Father’s Day. For the first time in seven years my entire family, including two in-laws and four grandchildren, came to church with me. What a privilege to preach to my family and share my spiritual journey with them. Following the service we went to my son’s house for a cookout. Steaks and Father’s Day do seem to go together.
When things settled down, the four children wanted to play outside. They’d been good all day but needed to work out their wiggles. I don’t recall how it was than just my son and I were in the yard supervising the children and my out-of-state granddaughter practiced climbing the miniature slide. It was a peaceful time. And then –
My son reached to pick my granddaughter up. In a panic she turned from him and lifted her hands to me. Finally I held her. Reassured her. Hugged her. How delightful those few moments until she, reassured my son wouldn’t approach, squirmed and I set her down. I laughed with my son over the incident and told him I was “the lesser of two evils” and glad of it.
It won’t be too long before a year will have passed. I’ve had time to reflect. I see parallels between my granddaughter’s behavior and my own. I am on a spiritual journey the goal of which is to know God more deeply. Yet time after time I try to navigate my way through this journey solo. Only after I have baffled myself and can’t figure what is next do I turn to God.
Why do I wait? In part it is because somewhere I adopted a view of God as the stern demanding disciplinarian. Why go to someone who will tell me I messed up? I already know that. But is that how God interacts with me?
Is he not more like me as a grandfather? I didn’t push myself on my granddaughter. I stayed close to be ready and available. When the little one turned to me my thought wasn’t about how long she’d stayed aloof. Rather it was pure delight that she’d finally come to me. I longed to show her the depth of my love and that I would protect her (she didn’t know her uncle intended no harm). Isn’t that what God is like? He stays close to us, longing for us to turn to him, available when we do, ready to pick us up and love on us.
Ultimately, I think, God accepts us even when we come to him as the lesser of two evils. I believe that God more than merely accepting us, longs for the day when we turn to him willingly, first and not as the lesser but as the Good.