Monday over Coffee: The Thread

The Thread

Do you find yourself wanting to skip over some of the challenging parts of your days, your weeks, your life, to get to the parts that are more enjoyable, easier, and more readily savored? Yeah, I do too. 

 

“The Magic Thread” is a French fable about a young boy named Peter. He’s a good enough sort, though rather impatient. Peter finds school boring. He’s often irritated by his teachers who, he believes, assign him too much homework, messing up his free time to do what he wants when he wants. That is to say, Peter is easily exasperated, convinced life might be better if this were a little different, or that. He’s persuaded that just over the next horizon—the next week, the next month, the next year—things will be better, just right in fact.

 

And just as fables go, one day Peter is walking from school through the woods toward home when he meets an old woman. The woman extends to him a shiny ball of thread with a single silken golden strand falling free. She explains to him, “This is the thread of your life, young Peter. If you want time to pass more quickly, just pull the thread a bit. An hour will pass like a second. However,” she feels obliged to warn him, ”once the thread’s been pulled, it cannot be pushed back in. You can only move forward in time, never back.”

 

Peter looks at the single strand at the end of the ball and sees it creeping out from the ball ever so slowly, so slowly in fact, it’s almost unnoticeable. He accepts the ball of thread from the woman and continues home glad to have received this interesting gift. The following day, struck by boredom in school, and aggravated again by his teacher, Peter pulls the thread subtly and sure enough, suddenly the teacher is instructing the class to pack up their books for the school day has ended. 

 

Fantastic, Peter thinks, his mind spinning forward. A couple of more days pass and Peter realizes if he gives the thread a little harder tug, the drudgery of school will be over altogether. He takes a deep breath and pulls the thread just so and finds himself not only out of school and working at his first job, but in love with a young woman he knew from grade school. Her name is Liese, and, it turns out, she’s always loved him. Their courtship is wonderful, so wonderful that Peter becomes impatient to marry Liese, and pulls the thread again a bit and finds himself at the altar with her. There’s a reception. There’s a lovely wedding cake. All his friends and family are present. Soon enough, the young couple have kids, but of course, having small children is very hard. Fortunately though, Peter still has the ball of thread and whenever a child is sick or cries or something hurts them too much, he just gives the thread a little tweak, and all is well again.

 

And it goes on like this. When troubles arise at work, just a little pull. When the government isn’t the one he likes best—a tug. Despite having this ability though, Peter is never quite able to get ahead or provide as he wants for his family, and one night, stirred awake by his worries, he thinks how much easier life might be if his children were just a little older. One thing leads to another and before Peter knows it, he’s an old man. The children have left the house and have their own careers and families, his wife is ill, and it’s only then that Peter begins to see the pattern—as soon as one problem is resolved, another appears in its place. It’s all simply enmeshed within the fabric of life.

 

One day, again just as these fables go, Peter’s walking in the woods and meets the old woman once again. Though Peter’s much older himself, she recognizes him and asks, “So Peter. Did you have a good life?”

 

“The ball of thread is a wonderful thing,” Peter says. “I’ve never had to suffer or wait for anything in my life. Yet it’s all passed by so quickly. I haven’t had time to take in what’s happened, neither the good nor the bad. Now there’s so little time left.” The old woman smiles again. 

 

“Would you like to live again without it?” 

 

Peter nods, goes home, and falls asleep to awake the next morning, his youthful mother nudging him gently to get up. Peter rises, and as he walks to school with his young friend Liese, he notices what a bright and beautiful morning it is—the kind of morning it feels good to be alive.

 

God—Thank You for each and every moment.


Amen.


—Greg Funderburk


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