: to release from a furled (wrapped or rolled close to or around something) state
It was roughly a year ago that I chose the word unfurl for 2011. Perhaps its misleading to even say I chose the word. I prayed for several days about what my word for 2011 might be and I heard "unfurl" as a very distinct response. I was puzzled at first, then accepting. Until early January when it hit me that this unfurling was a process that was likely to leave me very vulnerable. I had a very clear mental image of an unfurled flag being whipped around in gale force winds. Not a comforting concept to kick off the year.
Tonight as I contemplate the word - and my year - I see it a bit differently. Tonight, I'm struck by the fact that an unfurled flag does not do much on its own. When there's little or no wind, even an unfurled flag is calm, unlikely to be noticed. Yet when the wind picks up - when the time is right - an unfurled flag billows, blows and points the way. (I started to type "calls attention to itself," but I can't quite take the metaphor there if that might mean I actually need to call attention to myself sometimes. I'll go with "points the way" instead.)
I've been very aware lately of how much God's timing is at play in my life. I am spending nine months doing an Ignatian Prayer Cycle. The idea is to spend a bit of time every day reading specified scriptures. The reality is that I'm 8 or 9 days behind. Yet yesterday's sermon and my own verse tied together beautifully and made me thankful I've fallen behind. I loved having my own quiet time reinforce the words I'd heard earlier that same day. An unfurled flag waits for the wind's timing. It doesn't - can't - do its job by itself.
But that same flag isn't always idle. For the first time yesterday I served as a lay reader at church. This means I read the first lesson for the day to the congregation. It's an oddity (I think) that an introvert like me is good at public speaking. But I am. I had to read the entire first chapter of Jonah yesterday and I was nervous. But instead of letting my nerves hurry me along, they made me slow down and read the passage better. I went back to my seat feeling like I'd used a part of me that was meant to be used. This is growth for me - to be active and participatory instead of deferring and accommodating. This is unfurling - to accept that I have something to offer and offer it. When the wind blows and God points me in a direction, I don't want to stay curled up and resisting. I want to be unfurled and open to going where I'm sent and enjoying the moments when the wind is still.