It’s one of my favorite movies. Bill Murray plays Phil Connors, a miserable curmudgeon reporter sent to cover the annual Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, event and witness whether or not Punxsutawney Phil, the celebrated groundhog, sees his shadow. Through some mysterious time loop, Phil relives the same day over . . . and over . . . and over again.
Convinced he’s doomed to be stuck in the same day forever, Phil desperately tries to discover a way out of the rut. However, each day he rises to the radio alarm playing “I Got You, Babe,” and knows his efforts have been fruitless.
These past few weeks have felt a bit like Phil’s time loop. Day after day, regardless of our role or situation, there is a sameness to time and a surreal disconnect from what we consider the “real world.” It’s a situation that has brought out the best—and the worst—in humanity. Reactions and responses differ. There are those who hoard toilet paper and water or stockpile guns and ammunition. There are others shopping for their elderly neighbors and taking time to encourage healthcare workers.
My husband and I have begun to take a walk early every morning and late every night. On occasion, we will see someone doing the same, so we each pick our side of the street, share a greeting, and continue on our way. One thing we’ve noticed is the unusual amount of old furniture and household items being left for the trash collectors and recyclers. Apparently, many have taken advantage of the extra time at home to clean out closets and do some neglected household chores.
As a pastor of worship, I miss my church family and the weekly celebration of faith. However, the challenge of creating engaging opportunities to worship virtually has stretched me and required me to think outside the box, and that’s been a very good and healthy thing for me and my dependence on God. I am amazed at the creativity and energy of our church staff, and my delight in working on this team just continues to increase as I see each one moving mountains in their own areas to minister to and encourage our congregation.
As the headlines speak of this crisis peaking and the eventual return to whatever will be considered the new normal, it causes me to not only grieve for what we have lost over these months but to also wonder what we may have gained.
I wonder what things will look like when we begin to come together again. Might we reemerge a kinder, more thoughtful and appreciative people? Might we have realized a value to more time to read, write, or just have unstructured time with family?
Phil Connors believed his life was a nightmare that would never end. However, he eventually moves from frustration to acceptance, using the situation to learn new skills, rebuild old relationships, and appreciate the more important things in life. It was when he allowed what he considered a crisis to reestablish his priorities and open his mind to a new pace of life that he was able to move beyond the rut.
My hope is that we celebrate the regaining of what we missed but also treasure what we may have learned in the pause of life.