There used to be a mason jar on the desk in my office. It was like the kind you use to store moonshine or catch lightning bugs- the one that crafty mamas keep by the dozens in their pantries. Mine was stuffed with folded bright neon-colored Post-it notes. On each of the notes was some type of “encouraging word” in quote or scripture form.
Whenever I would walk into my office, I would look away from the small circle of space occupied by that jar, quickly grabbing the office supply I lacked or sparkly top for salsa dancing and rapidly exiting the room. That 4-inch tall jar took up way more space in my head than it did physical space on my desk. It took me 3 months before I even opened the first note.
It was a simple –yet life altering—summary of Micah 6:3.
It yelled at me from a bright pink background and multi-colored marker font. I put it on my bathroom mirror and stared at it for half of a year in an attempt to forget the other colored paper in the Mason jar on my desk.
It took me 7 months before I opened another. The movers were packing up my worldly goods and one of them began to wrap the jar in brown packing paper. “I’ll take that,” I said.
In the silence of the bathroom while the men grunted and hefted my furniture down the stairs, I opened a yellow note. This one said:
You Are So Loved.
It felt like an indictment. Like the echo of a gavel hitting the woodgrain. Like that moment when the foreperson says: we find the defendant guilty and the courtroom gasps. That was me: Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.
I used both hands to crumple that small note as fast as I could and then I poured the rest of the unopened notes in to the already full trash bag at my feet. And I put 10669 miles between me and that Mason jar.
The Mason jar was part of a birthday package from one of my best friends. Only we weren’t – we aren’t – friends anymore. We were friends for a decade. But no longer. If “Ex” is the word that one uses to symbolize the dissolution of a voluntary relationship (like ex-spouses or ex-business partners), then we are most definitely ex-best friends.
The words in that Mason jar were meant for a girl, a Sister friend, who she loved enough to hand write encouraging notes for. A girl whose birthday she thought was worthy of celebrating with sweet words and incredibly thoughtful gifts. A girl whose calls she’d received at twilight hours to help heal a mishandled heart or hear ideas of revolution. The girl who she’d asked to be Godmother to her very own daughter. But I wasn’t that girl to her any longer.
That Mason jar and its pretty-colored contents were a reminder of all the ways that a friendship comes undone. How a dangling thread becomes an abyss through which words fall and are eventually left unsaid. How years of unresolved issues become a shadowing tower of recrimination and misunderstanding that is virtually impossible to scale. How one day you just stop really hearing the other person. How, in the end, the only things that you have left to say to each other can fit neatly into the tight circumference of a Mason jar.
What I’ve come to realize during the 12 months that I’ve spent avoiding this Mason jar of love notes from someone who no longer loves me is that bitterness and anger don’t heal broken hearts. That saying goodbye to a friend is sometimes necessary. That sometimes you’ll have to be the one who initiates goodbye and sometimes you’ll be the one left behind. That there are now whole memory reels of just the two of you that no longer exist outside of your head. That you can both love Jesus and still be unable to work out your problems. That sometimes you’ll see their picture in your phone or an old email will pop up in a completely unrelated search and it will always always startle you. That thinking of love in terms of a scoreboard means that you’ve already lost. And that you can still love someone even if that love isn’t returned.
It’s been almost a year since I sent the email from which our friendship would never recover. And though I don’t regret what I said, I do mourn the loss of my friend.