By a Thread

Have you ever stopped to think about the expression, “hanging by a thread”? It implies that there is very little keeping a person or a thing from holding on. For example, Grace’s front tooth is dangling from her gums “by a thread” right now. She can twist it nearly 360 degrees, and it bends in and out like an old garage door. She refuses to let me get a firm grip on it and pull it, preferring instead to gross out her brothers and total strangers walking by her.

Sometimes people use that expression to mean that there is very little keeping them from snapping or from losing control somehow: “Her sanity was hanging by a thread.” I’m sure many parents in Michigan were feeling that last week as our kids rejoiced the many snow days that were called and we got very little accomplished.

I was thinking about the power of that last thread though, the one that is holding everything from falling apart and how that thread is undoubtedly the strongest one. But is it really? It’s made out of the same stuff as all the other threads. Grace’s gum tissue is made of the same matter. Or if we look at the thread in a figurative sense, our minds are uniformly made out of the same neurons and synapses. What is that thread really being strengthened by? Maybe it’s the thread at the core of the bunch that was supported by all the other ones. It didn’t have to do the heavy lifting until now. But theoretically speaking, it could have just let go when the others called it quits too. 

Last week, here in Michigan, temperatures plummeted to negative 40s with the windchill. When I stepped outside to get the mail, my nose hairs froze together. I saw deer tracks in our yard leading up to the trees that they had nibbled on in their search for food. The air was deadly silent. Not a single bird made a peep. I was sure we had survived something apocalyptic like that Day After Tomorrow movie. 

Then yesterday came. Birds were singing. The sun was warm on our skin. The kids peeled off their heavy winter coats and even their sweaters and snow melted in rushing streams to the sewers in the road. It was 47 degrees outside! Somehow life existed in spite of this impossibly frigid weather. And a gift of a fake spring day made things seem hopeful.

I took a walk and let the sunshine hit my face (without sunscreen!). As I sloshed along the wet road in my rain boots, I thought about that thread that keeps us from the brink. I have a theory that the last thread is really made stronger by faith. Faith is like a steroid injection that keeps that little thread from breaking. Maybe somehow Grace’s gums know that when she loses that baby tooth I am going to cry a river of tears because her chubby little cheeks will no longer seem so babyish. Maybe my faith is helping to keep that thing tethered in there. I mean, I realize it’s a stretch and that tooth is only one apple bite away from being set free. But I really have no other way of understanding how sometimes, we get so close to the breaking point and then miraculously the odds can turn. Is it our faith? Or is it someone’s faith in us? Is it all those threads of prayers and good vibes reinforcing that last thread of hope for us? I have no way of knowing such things. But I believe in it anyway. Because after all, that’s what faith really is. It holds us by a thread.

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She’ll hate me for this someday, but it’s worth it.