Saturday, September 13, 2008

Groundhog Day

I've always liked this movie and have watched it a number of times. I have never really been able to put my finger on why it speaks to me but I think I have some new clarity on the matter.

After living the same day over and over a few times, Bill Murray's character starts to enjoy the fact that he can do whatever he wants with not having to endure any consequences the following day. It is a function of his self-centered persona that this would be the first benefit of his situation that he exploits. However, violating the law, stealing money, buying lavish gifts and seducing women through dishonest means doesn't result in lasting fulfillment. That realization leads to thoughts, and ultimately to attempts, of suicide. After all, if what you have always conceived to be the source of happiness doesn't actually end up leading to happiness then what is the point of going on? Where is the hope? I don't think he is just looking for an easy way out of his predicament. He is a self-centered, egotistical guy who is forced to look at himself and his worldview in a very stark and unforgiving way. He doesn't like what he sees. His self-involved depravity is even commented on by his producer (the woman whom his heart actually wants) when she quotes the latter part of the following poem:

Breathes there the man with soul so dead
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
Whose heart has ne'er within him burned,
As home his footsteps he hath turned
From wandering on a foreign strand?
If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
For him no minstrel raptures swell;
High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim,
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch, concentered all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonored, and unsung.

Of course, he is unable to kill himself, since he keeps waking up the next morning in bed regardless of what he does. Slowly but surely he starts to open himself up to others. He begins investing in people around him (imperfectly at first), both friends and strangers, and changes his perspective on what life is about. It's not about getting by or getting ahead - it's about getting to a place where you find value in everything that God places in your path. It's about finding a purpose larger than yourself...discovering the larger story going on around you as Eldredge might say. Ultimately, this leads him to finding value in himself as a person.

So the movie is ulimately about dying to self and having a new birth. It really is analogous to our lives, before we knew Christ and after. It is a wonderful representation of restoration and reclaiming our hearts for what they were meant to be and what they were meant to pursue. It is ultimately a story of hope even when hope appeared to be an illusion at one point.

Before his first attempt at ending his life he says to his producer, "I have come to the end of me." It's usually at that point, or shortly thereafter, that we finally turn to God...sadly because we have run out of ways to make things work on our own. Yet, God still responds and shows up and binds the brokenhearted.

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:8

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