A friend gave me a word when I first arrived in Burundi - unfolding. I have held onto the word, letting my imagination play with the image. Receiving this word at the onset of my Burundian chapter was a great gift. The connotations have been perpetually gentle, like water lapping against the side of a boat as it rocks, ever so slightly. I have tried to lean into the word, to fall into it without seizing or fearing.
Unfolding is something that happens slowly, gradually and gently. I think of a crumpled paper... the corners all pressed into the center and turning on themselves. As the paper unfolds, it spreads out - not stretching, just spreading. And the corners come out... out from the compact center, moving toward the periphery, where corners belong. They are not meant to be central or compressed at the core... they are corners meant to be at the boundary. So I am allowing my misplaced corners to find their natural place. And what happens in the process of this unfolding - I begin to see what is really at the center of the paper, what it is that holds the center.
Unfolding also leads me to think of gentleness, effortlessness, an easiness with the process. There is no striving or contending when you unfold. You cannot force or hurry your unfolding. You just submit to it - like a good massage. You are passive, yet present. You are aware but not in control.
Unfolding is like unclenching your fist. Open your hand, relax your fingers, expose your palm. Let the stress or anger go. Allow the hot, knotted emotions to ease and cool. Maybe they will even dissipate as you simple let them go.
But the word that seems constantly coupled with unfolding is gentleness. This is a kind process, an easy place where the yoke is light and easy. Could Jesus' yoke really be this gentle? The Dali Lama also speaks of being gentle to ourselves, extending a kindness and grace to our self as we experience harsh emotions, display bad behavior or struggle. Gentleness as we view ourselves, gentleness as we follow, gentleness as we unfold and discover what God is developing in us.
As I said, this word has been a good housewarming gift. It has allowed me freedom to gently unfold and allow God to reveal His reasons for me to be here at this time and in this place. I think that now as I return to my gently rocking routine, there will be more unfolding and more revealing. I think that next there will be deepening as I learn how to engage in Burundi in ways that are in step with the way of Jesus and for the sake of His world.