God Stuff

Groundhog Day


Well friends, it’s the first of February, and you know what that means…turn on your TV at any moment of the day, look hard enough, and you’ll find the movie Groundhog Day. Actually, you shouldn’t have to look hard. It’s on every channel from Animal Planet to ESPN 8.

I’m sure you remember it. Self-centered weatherman Phil Connors (played by Bill Murray) goes to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to cover the Groundhog Day festivities. After a snowstorm strands him there an extra night, Phil wakes up to realize he is living the same day, over and over again. Each morning he wakes up to I’ve Got You Babe by Sonny and Cher (a unique torture in itself) playing on his alarm clock. Each day he relives the same events, meets the same people and has the same conversations. After his initial confusion, he begins to deal with his situation in different ways.

We get to experience each day with him. We can say to ourselves, “I’d definitely have done that” or “Oh my goodness, I can’t believe he did that!” We can identify with his character.

We’re in on the joke.

At first he takes advantage of his situation. He robs an armored car, eats as much junk food as he wants, and seduces a woman by pretending to have gone to her high school.

Who hasn’t longed to live life as if there were no consequences?

After the novelty wears off, he becomes depressed. At one point, he asks two men at a bar, “What would you do if you were stuck in one place and everything was the same and nothing that you did mattered?”

Who hasn’t felt as if  they were going through the motions? That each day was an endless string of monotony? My job isn’t fulfilling? My relationship is going nowhere? What am I doing of consequence?

Eventually he tries to end his life in a number of morbidly funny ways culminating in kidnapping the groundhog, going on a high-speed chase through town and driving off a cliff.

And then he wakes up. To Sonny and Cher. Again.

Accepting his fate, he decides to do good deeds. He plans his day around mishaps throughout town. He catches a child falling from a tree, changes a flat tire and performs the heimlich maneuver. He even tries to save a homeless man from dying by buying him a warm meal. In this situation however, he learns that sometimes no matter how hard we try, our best efforts fail. He learns he can’t save everyone.

Who are you trying to save?

Look, I won’t spoil the end of the movie, but suffice it to say, throughout his ordeal of living the day over and over again, he grows. No longer the shallow man from the first of the movie, no longer going through the motions, he learns to be aware of others around him. He becomes truly empathetic.

And while all of this is clever, and we are able to see ourselves in Phil’s shoes, recognizing all sorts of different situations and experiences during the course of his transformation, I think maybe we miss a really important point. Throughout the entire movie, we are tempted to ask ourselves, “What would I do if I were trapped in Groundhog Day? How would I handle the situation? What would I do differently?” Maybe there is a more interesting question?

What if I am already living in Groundhog Day?

What if, instead of seeing life through Phil’s eyes, we saw life through the eyes of the townspeople?

What if we aren’t in on the joke?

Is there a Phil in your life? Someone who’s living life as if there are no consequences? Who’s going through the motions? Seeking fulfillment? Doing good deeds?

Who’s trying to save you?

Regardless the reason you choose to believe, be it a break in the time-space continuum or God stepping in, there are people in our life that matter. And they may be dealing with things we can’t understand. And we may be playing a part in a scene much greater than we realize.

As one of the men at the bar says to Phil, “Some men would look at this glass and say it’s half empty. Other men would say it’s half full.”

Are we already living in Groundhog Day, just not in on the joke?

It’s a matter of perspective.

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