Groundhog Day was one of my favorite movies of all time, so it was with interest that I read this particular article where the author attempts to calculate how much time Phil (Bill Murray) spent stuck in Groundhog Day, and concludes that it was roughly the equivalent of about 34 years.
Harold Ramis (the director) indicated that it was at least 10 years, so this probably isn’t a stretch. 34 years reliving the same day. Whew.
And yet, as much as Phil may have seen that as a living hell, I see it really as an act of remarkable grace and fortune. No matter how much he screwed up, the day was reset and he could start over with a blank slate, yet still remember the lessons he learned from the previous day. It took years, but over that time he began to gradually morph into a different kind of person, one who looked outward instead of inward, and used the ample time he was given not only to become a better man, but a man who significantly expanded his horizon of knowledge and skills that often takes years to master (such as learning the piano and becoming an ice sculptor).
Those of us in the real world though only have a finite amount of time from which to spend our existence, and some of us do indeed experience our own version of Groundhog Day, living the same lives, doing the same things, day after day after day…
Except in our cases, by the time we wise up and start to realize how precious life is, 30+ years will have gone by that we will never get back again. Once it’s gone, that’s it. Unlike Phil, we get no do-over.
When I reflect on my own life, I realize, startlingly, that nothing has really changed for me in over 14 years. I have the same job, same routine, same habits, same gripes, same complaints, same problems. I’m a dog zipping around the same well worn tracks in a small backyard. Is this really healthy? Are we meant to become creatures of habit and stasis?
I do believe that we have a deep-seated need towards learning, creating, advancing and other things that give us a sense of achievement and accomplishment. When we’re locked into a holding pattern though, each day the same as the one before, our minds begin to stagnate, becoming fat, lethargic and lazy.
There is something utterly fulfilling about forward motion, and likewise equally as depressing about remaining in stasis.
But what does forward motion mean? Does it require a drastic life change such as quitting a job and moving to places unknown, or getting married? Sooner or later the drudgery of life still tends to catch up, and even in new jobs and new families we can still find ourselves in constant stasis.
For Christians, one of the tenets of Scripture that so few can abide by is the persistent admonishment to STAND STILL (and see the salvation of the LORD). To purposely cease from action and rely on God for dramatic changes of course in one’s life is probably one of the hardest acts of faith to follow through on. Instead, I find many dismiss these commandments out of hand and move forward on their own, scheming, plotting, manipulating, and presumptuously believing every decision they make is sanctioned by God, without seeking His counsel, without praying, without any willingness to cede to His will. To remain in one place, one spot, one boring moment in our lives that never seems to end is a thought that terrifies both Christians and non-Christians alike.
But what happens when that moment we live in, or more specifically, that day (as we see in Groundhog Day) is literally frozen in time beyond our control? Are we forever doomed to stasis and a lack of forward momentum forever?
I believe that’s a question the film answers: ultimately, no, we’re not. Even reliving the same day and trapped in the same mundane rituals of daily routine, we can still learn new things, forge new bonds, and continuously improve ourselves, our knowledge, and our skills, even if some of them might take years to master. My mistake had been focusing on the routine, and using that to justify my complacency. “Oh, my life isn’t going anywhere, so there’s no point in me trying to make the most of the time I have here on earth.”
It’s easy, too easy, for me to sit down and watch Netflix and just let my mind rot away, or endlessly check my emails every 5 minutes to see if the people I’ve emailed finally remember to stop being as rude as sin and get back to me.
I live next to one of the greatest cities in the world, and yet I look for every excuse not to visit. I don’t take up a new hobby or visit new places. I wallow in misery and depression because I’ve become so focused on wanting my Groundhog Day to END that I’ve lost interest in everything else. I’m sick of the same old thing, the same old story, the same old problems, the same old day. I fight, I rebel, and I look for ways out, often to my own detriment, and in the end I realize I’m fighting something I have no control over. Only God can end my Groundhog Day, and if He chooses not to, then accepting that He is also a benevolent God, I must learn to understand why. Is the monotony of life really the catalyst to my demise, or is there a lesson He wants me to learn from this (just as Phil had to learn), that would lead to my salvation instead? By stressing over the things I have no control over, I am in essence telling God that I do not trust Him, that I do not believe His promises, that I in fact have doubts that He even cares or desires to change the circumstances of life in my favor. And in all that despair I realized I was missing the forest for the trees.
While I must relive my own Groundhog Day for a season, that is time given to me to improve my life, get healthier, and prepare myself accordingly for when a new day finally arrives. But above all, it is time needed to learn faith, by learning to let go of the things I cannot change and the doors I cannot open on my own. If the life of living Groundhog Day should teach me anything, it is that I should learn to live in the moment, rather than worry about what will come tomorrow. And even if that moment happens to be trapped in a day that endlessly repeats itself, it is still a moment worth living.