What Day Is It?

There was a comedy/romance movie released in 1993 staring Bill Murray which has attained cult status and is indeed in my top 5 of favourite movies.

There was a comedy/romance movie released in 1993 staring Bill Murray which has attained cult status and is indeed in my top 5 of favourite movies.

There was a comedy/romance movie released in 1993 staring Bill Murray which has attained cult status and is indeed in my top 5 of favourite movies.

If you hadn’t guessed by now, the movie is called Groundhog Day, and it centres around Bill Murray’s character, Phil, as he is forced to live the same day, over and over and over again, many hundreds of times! The actual amount of days is never specified, but it hints at a lot. He learns several languages, teaches himself to play different musical instruments, and figures out how to finally win over the leading lady in the movie, Rita played by Andie Macdowell.

Phil is a bit of a curmudgeon and Bill Murray plays him very deadpan with plenty of cynical sarcasm. Some might say that Murray was born to play the role, it does appear to come very easily to him. Despite picking up different skills and talents along the way, the story is really about is seeing Phil change from a man with a miserable attitude into one that breaks free from his shackles of selfishness.

It’s after the second day that it finally dawns on Phil he is living the same day over and over again, and he goes a little nuts after realising this. He punches people, steals stuff and generally just pushes it all to the max, knowing he can now get away with anything as no-one except himself will remember it the next ‘day’. This leads to a period of self-reflection, which turns into depression. Phil tries to kill himself many times, only to immediately awake in the same bed, listening to the same alarm tuned to a local radio station, playing the same song. After his acknowledgement of what now seems like eternal life, he slowly begins to turn things around. He decides to better himself as a human being.

At the time of writing this, the whole of the world is in crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has created havoc to economies and more importantly has devastated a lot of lives. In amongst all this, a lot of us are in lockdown. This means that we are being asked by various governments across the globe to stay at home and to try and slow the spread of the disease so that our health systems are not overwhelmed and can cope with a steadier stream of patients.

What this has done is to create a new normal for us all. Even key workers who have had to continue working, have had to do a lot of readjusting. Some of them, particularly those working on the front line of health care, can’t even be with their families in case they become infected. For myself and my little family, we have been stuck at home now for coming up to three weeks; however, it’s only now that I feel we are really beginning to get on top of things.

I pastor a church in Leeds called Freedom Church, and for the first week or so we were all very reactive to what was happening. We found ourselves needing to put our whole church services online, which we were now required to record at home, but that was just the tip of the iceberg. More importantly than this, we desired to maintain a sense of family, that connection that those of us who are part of the Freedom Church family experience. Usually, these relationships are strengthened by the Sunday service, prayer meetings, small groups and other one-on-ones. Suddenly all the normal had gone, and we had to find new ways to be together. It has pushed us into being creative with our connectivity. It has forced us to look at things from a different perspective.

Of late, I have had this thought: When this is all over, when lives can start to be lived once again outside of the four walls of a house, I don’t want things to go back to normal. I don’t want to do church, for example, how we’ve always done it. Ironically, this period of isolation has made me feel more connected than ever before. I’ve never had as many conversations and face to face meetings with people (video conferencing, but you get the idea). As an introvert and one for whom the pastoral part of my job does not come easily to me, it has been a tremendous experience to engage with people on a whole new level. It’s one that I don’t want to stop.

Unexpectedly, the COVID-19 pandemic has made me realise how much of a ‘Groundhog Day’ life I was living in. Preparing the same things every week (different themed sermons, but the same process of putting it all together), watching the same programmes on TV, spending the same nights in, reading the same kind of stuff. Living a life of so much potential, but accepting a life of repetitiveness which could lead to boredom or burnout.

Now that makes my life sound terribly dull. It isn’t. I have an amazing wife and equally amazing children who fill me with joy. Still, the potential for my life becoming like Groundhog Day Phil’s, I realised was just over the horizon. Strangely and oddly, I’m grateful for the isolation as it has put a much-needed focus on what I do and whether it has any value. And also, what I’m not doing and what needs to change to enable things to develop.

Where do you find yourself right now? You could be reading this while we’re still in lockdown. Take time in this season to honestly evaluate what is of worth and what you might change.

You may have come across this many months from now. In this case, how have things settled down for you? Have things slotted back into the groove of same-old-same-old? What will it take to shake things up for you and to lead you, potentially, into pastures new?

I think we need to take the focus off ourselves and what we’re going to get out of the day, and place the focus on God and what is He going to get out of your day. Put your heart and soul into every activity you do, as though you are doing it for the Lord himself and not merely for others (Colossians 3:23). As we follow God’s desire for us, I think we’ll find that our lives will become far from repetitive and will take us to places of adventure and excitement. Pray that bold prayer and see how God’s answers. Take seriously His command to reach the world with the Good News of Jesus and see what new connections are made.

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