When I was in Florida for my father’s recent hospitalization, death, and funeral, I was holding onto the thread that is described in this poem by William Stafford:
The Way It Is | William Stafford
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among things that change. But it doesn’t change. People wonder about what you are pursuing. You have to explain about the thread. But it is hard for others to see. While you hold it you can’t get lost. Tragedies happen; people get hurt or die; and you suffer and get old. Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding. You don’t ever let go of the thread.
The thread that I was holding onto was my faith and trust in God, and my faith and trust in the prayers being lifted up for me and my family by my church and community. I held on tight, and never let go of the thread. I still am.
When I got home, I returned to reading a favorite book of devotions, Meditations from the Heart by Howard Thurman, and almost immediately came across another poem with this same image. It must be important, right? Here it is:
The Threads in My Hand | Howard Thurman
Only one end of the threads, I hold in my hand. The threads go many ways, linking my life with other lives. One thread comes from a life that is sick; it is taut with anguish and always there is the lurking fear that the life will snap. I hold it tenderly. I must not let it go ... One thread comes from a high-flying kite; It quivers with the mighty current of fierce and holy dreaming Invading the common day with far-off places and visions bright ... One thread comes from the failing hands of an old, old friend. Hardly aware am I of the moment when the tight line slackened and there was nothing at all — nothing... One thread is but a tangled mass that won't come right; Mistakes, false starts, lost battles, angry words — a tangled mass; I have tried so hard, but it won't come right ... One thread is a strange thread — it is my steadying thread; When I am lost, I pull it hard and find my way. When I am saddened, I tighten my grip and gladness glides along its quivering path; When the waste places of my spirit appear in arid confusion, the thread becomes a channel of newness of life. One thread is a strange thread — it is my steadying thread. God's hand holds the other end ...
Both of these poems have given me an image to hold onto as I grieve and face other challenges in life. I am grateful for these poems, for the image they share, and for the steadying thread helping me on my way. And I am even more grateful for the One who is holding the other end of this thread.
Hold onto your thread, never let go, and rest assured that God’s hand holds the other end. Always.