Plimsoll marks have been heavily on my mind as of late. Sporadically, I find myself contemplating the last few years of my life. They have become the saddest years of my life. I made choices during that time that are still hard to reconcile. I was fighting for the custody of my children, and in the process, I became so focused on my rights that I forgot my responsibilities. My life's Plimsoll marks were well underwater; overwhelmed, hurt and confused at even the mere fact that I was fighting for custody. It seemed as though the more I fought the more things went awry.
Plimsoll marks are something I learned about a few years ago while reading Jeffery R. Holland's BYU devotional, "How Do I Love Thee?" (one of my all time favorites).
Samuel Plimsoll, as a boy was enamored with observing merchant ships load and unload their cargo and noticed that "regardless of the cargo space available, each ship had its maximum capacity". Samuel, a "British politician and social reformer who dedicated himself to achieving greater safety for seamen and whose name has been given to a line on the side of a ship, indicating the maximum depth to which that ship may be legally loaded."
In short, when the fierce winds and terrible storms occurred at sea many merchant vessels were unable to withstand the violence of the storm; overloaded with cargo/baggage the ships hulls would crack and the vessel was soon lost at sea. Great loss was incurred as the cargo plummeted to the ocean's abyss, vessel owners lost their ships as Sailors lost their lives. It was Samuel Plimsoll's cargo calculations that allowed for the ship's Captain to know when the ship had reached it's maximum load capacity, thus allowing the ship to maintain its full strength and maneuver through the storm and continue on to it's destination.
Former BYU's President Holland taught "Like ships, people have differing capacities at different times and even different days in their lives. In our relationships we need to establish our own Plimsoll marks and help identify them in the lives of those we love. Together we need to monitor the load levels and be helpful in shedding or at least readjusting some cargo if we see our sweetheart is sinking. Then, when the ship of love is stabilized, we can evaluate long-term what has to continue, what can be put off until another time, and what can be put off permanently. Friends, sweethearts, and spouses need to be able to monitor each other’s stress and recognize the different tides and seasons of life. We owe it to each other to declare some limits and then help jettison some things if emotional health and the strength of loving relationships are at risk. Remember, pure love “beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things,” and helps loved ones do the same."
Recently, I have been turning the pages of Adam Miller's latest . I caught something that has helped me to better understand how to keep our strength and spiritual stamina during our most difficult moments, which are often the easiest moments to make the worst mistakes. The mistakes that violate and deceive ourselves, robbing ourselves often of what we love the most, while spiraling into the selfish cycles of sin where we struggle to hear the soothing voice of reason from those who love us most due to the deafening sounds of inner turmoil and despair.
Divided against ourselves, we feel powerless to change. We feel dead. This is sin. What I learned from those couple years of hell is simple. Obey the voice of God. One night in February of 2013, I heard His counsel. Immediately, I shrank at the thought of obeying His advice. I even asked "how ever could I do that?" To which He responded. Eventually, I did what He had originally recommended, it took a little more than a year to do so; oh how I wish I would have kept my Plimsoll mark above the waterline of despair, which had I had the character to do such I would have most likely avoided the majority of the storm all together. So much was lost by not being aware of my own Plimsoll marks and the one I loved the most.
God leads us along, and only the meek realize the the storms of life are the same winds that blow us to our own promised lands, despite being "buried" in a moment of difficulty (Ether 6).