The Christian Lesson found in “Groundhog Day”
Groundhog Day (noun) – a situation in which a series of unwelcome or tedious events appear to be recurring in exactly the same way.
Do you ever use the term “Groundhog Day”? With various Australian borders opening and closing it seems to be a phrase I am hearing quite a lot lately. Yet do many people think about the lessons we can actually take from this popular old movie?
For those who haven’t seen this 1993 comedy (or need a quick recap), “Groundhog Day” charts the transformation of Phil, the character played by Bill Murray. We see Phil begin his existential journey as a selfish and self important person who gradually changes into someone who lives for others and realises the importance of supporting his community.
Groundhog Day actually refers to an old Pennsylvanian tradition whereby the groundhog (a large ground squirrel also known as a woodchuck) is said to come out of its hole at the end of hibernation each year on 2nd February. Supposedly if the animal sees its shadow it goes back into its hole, which portends six weeks more of winter weather. These days when people use the term “Groundhog Day” they are usually referencing the film’s story line.
Phil Connors is the big city TV weatherman sent to cover the annual festival of Groundhog Day in the small community of Punxsutawney. As the self-deluded “talent”, his arrogance sees him treat both his long suffering TV crew and the local people with total disdain. Though he tries to leave immediately after the ceremony the whole crew gets snowed in and Phil wakes up the next morning to find he is reliving the previous day – Groundhog Day. What seems at first like a bad dream becomes his new reality as he finds himself destined to relive the same day, again and again and AGAIN!
What would you do if this was you? At first Phil becomes depressed. Then, realising the possibilities open to him, he stumbles into hedonism. He soon discovers, though, that the “do what thou will” lifestyle is empty and boring. Eventually, Phil finds the most satisfying course of action is looking after other people. Using the knowledge he has gained from repeatedly living through the same events, he begins to spend each day helping others avoid accidents and other mishaps. Through this process Phil becomes a better person, his altruistic actions now being performed without expectation of acknowledgment or reward and he is eventually released from his wintery time loop.
On the face of it, this story has all the elements from the first wave of coronavirus – depression, eating and drinking too much and also wonderful acts of thoughtfulness and generosity.
The problem is that as a society we seem to have emerged prematurely from the “loop”, without taking on board its true lesson – we will not escape this repeating nightmare unless we practice forbearance, put aside our own selfish desires and help one another. Not only do we need to look after those doing it tough, both financially and emotionally, we must also follow health advice and emergency government regulations – yes they are unwelcome and tedious but so is living in the COVID time loop!
When we look to the Scriptures we see that forbearance is a quality God holds in high regard. Whether manifest as patience, endurance, gentleness, tolerance, or moderation, forbearance is woven throughout the Bible – let’s embrace it!
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ… And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Galatians 6:2 / 6: 9
CFT Managing Director