Why was it that whenever Bobby asked his dad to let him have a bit of fun on the weekend, it always had to turn into an argument about Church standards? All he wanted to do was go on a fishing trip with his friend Jason. But Dad wouldn’t let him go unless Jason’s folks could bring him back in time for church on Sunday.
“Just tell him that you believe in keeping the Sabbath Day holy,” his dad suggested with a smile.
“Dad! I can’t tell Jason that!” Bobby declared. “He’ll think I’m a loser!”
Dad folded the newspaper he was reading and sat quietly for a moment considering his next words. “Son, you have to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.”
Bobby didn’t like it when his father talked in clichés. They were just sayings that were passed from person to person until they lost all meaning. Anyway, he didn’t understand what the big deal was. He was just going to spend the weekend with Jason and his family. He’d only miss church that one Sunday. I’ll just call Dad Sunday morning and tell him I can’t make it home in time for church, he decided.
“OK, Dad,” Bobby said. “Whatever you say.”
“Good decision, Son.” Dad thumped Bobby on the arm as he left the room.
Bobby felt a bit like a worm dangling on a hook, but he pushed the uncomfortable feeling to the back of his mind as he hurried to stuff a few things in his backpack. A whole weekend fishing! Yes! he thought.
The phone call to his dad Sunday morning brought that wriggling-worm feeling back again, but the sun was shining and the fish were biting. He shook the sound of his father’s disappointment out of his head and ran outside to join Jason.
Blue Lake shimmered like a saucer filled with diamonds. Bobby hoisted his end of the canoe off his shoulder and helped Jason maneuver it into the water. They soon were stroking toward the middle of the lake. A hawk soared overhead, then dove toward the lake. Its claws struck the water, thrusting beneath the surface. Its great wings beat soundlessly as it struggled to rise with a silver fish in its grasp.
“Wow! I wish I could fish like that!” Jason exclaimed.
The boys reeled in a couple of bite-size brookies, but they unhooked them and carefully placed them back in the water. “You guys need to grow up a bit before you can come home with us!” Bobby said.
Soon one of them reeled in a rainbow trout that would span a frying pan. Concentrating on their fishing, they didn’t notice the white wisps gathering near the shore until the first frigid fingers of fog darted down the necks of their jackets. By the time they’d secured their fishing poles and picked up their paddles, Bobby noticed that Jason was only a shadow at the other end of the canoe.
“Which way?” Bobby asked, dipping his paddle into the water.
“I don’t know. I can’t see the land.” Jason’s voice was muffled, as if he was fading away in the fog that engulfed them.
“Well, let’s just paddle straight. We’ll have to hit the shore sometime,” Bobby said.
They paddled and paddled, but caught no sign of land.
“I think we’re going in circles.” Jason’s voice sounded small.
The fog thickened around them like a quilt, swallowing them in its thick cottony folds. There were snags in the lake, hidden roots of trees that could grab a canoe and hold it fast. There were rocks, too—the jagged kind that could bite a hole right out of a boat. Though he could see none of these dangers, Bobby felt them lurking nearby, waiting for them to paddle the wrong way. Sooner or later, they would hit something. Sooner or later, they’d feel cold water rush into the bottom of the boat, feel the suck and drag of the lake pulling them down. …
Bobby’s teeth started to chatter, and he thrust a hand against his chin to stop the noise. He could not let his fears take over. He grasped his paddle tighter. What would Dad do in this situation? When he thought of his dad, the uncomfortable feeling he’d had earlier came back. Dad wouldn’t be out in the middle of the lake on Sunday morning. He’d be in church, keeping the Sabbath holy.
“Bobby? What are we going to do?” Jason’s voice sounded high and jiggly.
Bobby’s head felt as fuzzy as the mist, but after a minute a bit of light broke through. If his dad had been in this situation, he’d stand up for what he believed in. He would pray. Taking a deep breath, Bobby said, “I think we need to pray.”
Jason grunted. Bobby wasn’t sure if he was agreeing or just waiting until later to call him a loser. Right now, that didn’t seem to matter.
“Heavenly Father, I guess I’m not exactly where I should be right now,” Bobby whispered, “and I’m sorry about that. But we really need your help. Please help us find the way back to the shore. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”
Bobby opened his eyes, hoping for a miracle, but the fog did not lift. Instead, a voice that sounded a lot like Dad’s said two words, “Stand up.”
Yeah, I get it, Bobby thought. Stand up for what you believe in, and I will, I promise. But what about right now?
“Stand up,” the voice was more insistent.
Stand up? In a canoe? That was the last thing he wanted to do. Standing up in a canoe would probably get him a good dunking in the cold lake. But he couldn’t shake the certainty in that voice.
“I’m going to stand up for a second.”
“Are you nuts?” Jason must have started forward in his seat, because the canoe rocked. “Do you want us to end up at the bottom of the lake?”
“No, but I think the answer to my prayer is to stand up.”
“That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. Do you really believe in that prayer stuff?”
Bobby took a deep breath. “Yes,” he said. “I really do.”
He stood slowly, keeping his feet spread evenly on either side of the canoe bottom. As he rose, his head broke through the fog. He blinked, shading his eyes. He couldn’t believe it. The fog came only to his chest. Above the fog, the day still shone bright and clear. Off to his left, he could see the spot where they’d launched the canoe.
For the first time, Bobby really understood what his father had been trying to tell him. When you stand up for what you believe in, you come out into the light and everything becomes really clear.
He sat back down. “Pull right,” he said. “We’re going home.”
“A man of wisdom often offered this simple piece of advice: ‘David, stand tall.’ My dad did not expect that I would add inches to my stature or rise up on my tiptoes. He meant that I should be courageous in my decision, not compromising principles, not violating spiritual values, and not shrinking from responsibility. When I have followed his advice, life has been very good. When I have failed to stand tall, life has usually been unpleasant.”
Bishop H. David Burton
(Ensign, November 2001, page 65.)