Groundhog Day is one of my favorite movies. I can see you rolling your eyes. No, really. I love this film.
When I was a therapist for a mental health partial hospitalization program, I was allowed to show a therapeutic movie and lead a group discussion about it with patients on Fridays. Groundhog Day was in my regular rotation. For almost seven years, I saw this movie countless times.
If you consider it just a silly fantasy, you may need to watch it again. It’s one of many personal transformation stories where a curmudgeon, an unhappy or despicable protagonist, encounters a series of challenging events that force self-examination. The films end with a change in their personality, outlook, and behavior. Many well-written stories use some form of this character arc.
Other movies that exemplify this process are It’s a Wonderful Life, Mr. Destiny, My Life, Les Miserables, Big Fish, City Slickers, and A Christmas Carol. I’m sure you can think of some of your favorites too. They tend to be feel-good movies, but they all have latitude for some great discussions.
One appeal of this type of movie is how they illustrate the human condition. These are our stories, especially for Christians. “I once was lost, but now am found.” The initial experience of salvation snatches us from a life of captivity to sin and transforms us into a new creation in Christ.
Beyond that, the on-going sanctification process continues the work that Jesus initiated at the cross and from the point of our conversion. We are all a work-in-progress, with obstacles to face and overcome, as God is transforming us to the image of His Son.
Today is Groundhog Day, February 2nd. Like the movie, we wake up to the same sun rising on the horizon, with a new opportunity to do life differently. If we mess up today, we’ll have another chance to try again tomorrow. That’s the grace of God, not a curse, as it seemed to be in the movie.
Maybe this is why those makeover shows are popular on television. Those programs focus on external transformations of a room, a house, a garden, a vehicle, or the way a person dresses or looks. There’s always room for improvement externally, but also internally.
It is possible to make the same mistakes over and over. That’s what got many of the patients into the partial hospitalization program. People get trapped into dysfunctional patterns and need some help getting out. Otherwise it’s Groundhog Day for them again, or as Yogi Berra said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” Some people just need more help than others.
No matter how good life can be, though, we instinctively seem to know “this isn’t it.” We have a drive toward perfection that will only be fulfilled when we are finally, completely changed in the twinkling of an eye and stand in the presence of the One who is Holy Perfection.