Last night, the Professor put on his wizard cape and did some magical hocus pocus on my computer that not only updated the software, but synched all my various Mail programs (iPad Mail, Apple Mail, Gmail). While this was wonderful and heroic, it also meant that I had to go through and re-delete every message I'd ever deleted. Like, a hundred thousand of them.
I chugged my way through 2007, 2008, 2009. Then I got to 2010. Then I got to April 2010. Then I realized that very soon, I'd hit May 2010. I started paying attention.
You see, in May 2010, something unpleasant happened that I've never talked about in this space -- only offline, to kind and supportive friends. I'll speak in generalities. Essentially, I received an abrupt and very disgruntled email from someone I'd considered a friend, chiding me in no uncertain terms for something clumsy I'd done. Or, rather, said. Like, over a month previously. Would I have done better to keep my mouth shut? Absolutely. Did I intend any malice by it? Certainly not. As I said, clumsy.
At the time, mortified, I immediately fired off an abject apology. I never received a reply.
I learned a lot from that experience ... but the lessons learned are not the point here. The point is that the wound from that email stung me all summer. I felt embarrassed and regretful, yes, but also misunderstood and hurt. It took months of prayer and occasional pouring out of my heart to various friends who happened to be near when I needed an ear. Their words to me so often felt like God's words made audible.
So, yes, I found the email. I looked at its title and realized that I no longer remember the wording of her rebuke. I didn't need to re-read it -- no need to poke old scars to see if they'd bleed. I realized that I could think of this woman without any heartache, but with compassion, knowing that most people do not turn and bite the hand of friendship unless they are in pain themselves.
I also noticed something as my mouse hovered over that section of the Inbox. The same week I received that email, another message had arrived from a different person -- someone local whom I'd only known online. She wanted a quote for an article she was writing. One thing led to another, and over a year later, we're great friends -- and so are our children.
Somehow, I'd never put the two together, never remembered how immediately the blossom succeeded the thorn. As one friendship ended, another -- dare I say better one? -- was just beginning. Why did I dwell so much on the hurt and the loss?
Perhaps I needed the lessons learned from the loss of the one friendship to make me more fit for others. I believe the Lord was gently reminding me of the power of words -- those carelessly spoken to hurt, those gently spoken to bless and heal.