A number of years ago I was working on a lesson from the Book of Mormon. When I prepare a lesson, I underline various verses with blue and red pencils, highlighting here and there and adding comments in the margins. I was lying on the bed with a page open. My son, about five or six years of age at the time, was playing with his trucks. He saw what I was doing, dropped his truck, ran into his bedroom, and picked up his own copy of the Book of Mormon. He crawled up on the bed with me, opened his book, and borrowed my pencils to color in his book. My children used to say, “Dad colors in his scriptures, so we get to color in ours.”
When I work on a lesson I can get deeply absorbed with what I’m doing and not always be aware of everything that’s going on around me. Though I was aware that my son was marking his scriptures as I was marking mine, I wasn’t looking at what he was doing. About half an hour later when I was done with my lesson, I looked up to see his book. He had duplicated my page. Every word I had underlined, he had underlined. Every word I had highlighted, he had highlighted with the same colors that I had.
I had written a quote by Brigham Young in the margin, “How the Devil will play with a man who so worships gain.” My son had tried to write that same phrase, but it was too much for his little hand to write, so he just wrote, “How the devil.” He got the “d” backwards so it read, “How the bevil.”
As he saw me scrutinizing his book and looking at each duplication—and I was amazed at how closely he matched my book—he reacted in a way I had not anticipated. By the way, my son was exemplifying true worship. True worship is imitation, is it not? I looked at him and his little lips started to quiver and his eyes started to tear up and I said to him, “Oh, McKay, what’s the matter?”
And he said, “My lines aren’t straight like yours, Dad.”
He thought I was looking at his book with a critical eye, judging because his lines weren’t straight. As I study the life of the Savior, what he did, how he forgave, how he treated others, his relationship with his Father, I try to imitate him. Yet I fail frequently to get it right. Sometimes I look up and I’m afraid he is looking down at my crooked lines. I’m ready to break into tears and say, “My lines aren’t straight like yours, Lord.” Do you understand that feeling?
However, do you think that as a father I cared if my son’s lines were straight? He will get the lines straight in time. You and I will get our lines straight too. We’ll become everything that he was, all the qualities we’ve discussed here that we admire so much in him and that we’re not yet as good at as he is. We’ll get there. We’ll get those and every other thing we try to emulate from him right in time. In the meanwhile, he isn’t a chastening God. He doesn’t sigh in frustration. Isaiah wrote of him, “He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break” (Isaiah 42:2–3).
I love that. He won’t rail at you, bawl you out, or be critical. There are times in our lives when we will feel like a little bruised reed. Reeds are cylinders; when you bruise them, they become very weak and can barely stand straight. That is a beautiful image of how we feel from time to time. We’re bruised reeds and the tiniest critical remark will break us. Yet he says, “I don’t break a bruised reed.” He is not judgmental. He understands that we must grow from grace to grace. He will be patient with us. He is not critical with us in those matters.