This. A phrase I have repeated many times since this pandemic started as I have awoken, stared at my ceiling and felt a strong kinship to Bill Murray from the movie, "Groundhog Day". This prompted us to watch the actual movie the other night with our kids. Hilarious, real, relatable. And, of course, being the deep thinker that I am, it got me reflecting...
Because I am a person of deep faith, I am always seeking God's spin on everything I do, say, watch, learn, etc. Though I recognize that "Groundhog Day" is just a movie, I also believe that God shows up everywhere and we can learn from His leadings in our every day life - if we are open - even as we watch and then reflect on a silly movie. God is not just in a church building.
While we have not been gathering in churches, we also have not been gathering in community elsewhere. The gathering through a screen and without the subtleties of gestures, facial expressions and other body language prevent our interactions from being alive. I miss conversations that pause and breathe.
Interactions that are living are so much more tender, fragile and considerate. These interactions make me think of a dear sweet book one of my sister friends gave me, called, "The Rabbit Listened." The book is about a little boy who builds a grand construction project with blocks. As he sits to admire it, an enormous flock of black birds flies through, destroying his creative dream-come-reality in one careless swoop. Unaware of their wrecking ball flight, the birds go about their way, leaving the little boy alone and distraught.
Oh, I have been there. One of my biggest weaknesses is anxiety. And living in a pandemic has fueled the fire that drives my anxiety and has allowed ample opportunities for Satan to inch his way into my thoughts. Might seem odd, but a place this has shown up for me is through organized baseball for one of my sons. Without going into my mind's very exaggerated play by play, suffice it to say that I built a similar grand construction baseball diamond for my son. As I sat admiring it with hope in what I had been a part of accomplishing for him and seeing his confidence growing, his own internal doubts disappearing, an unexpected swoop of destruction came out of nowhere. And there I sat, laying in a puddle of worry for him, imagining all the ways this disappointment would negatively affect him.
In the book, several different animals come to the little boy and offer their suggestions for how he should cope with his loss. The chicken wanted him to talk, the bear wanted him to be angry, the elephant wanted him to start rebuilding immediately and the hyena wanted him to laugh about it. The ostrich wanted him to hide and pretend it never happened, the kangaroo wanted him to throw all the blocks away and forget it every happened. And the snake, as is usual with those conniving little devils, wanted him to make himself feel better by destroying something of someone else's. The little boy didn't feel like doing any of those things. The animals stormed off, not happy about the fact that he did not take their unsolicited advice.
In my experience, it wasn't the well meaning friends who came to offer their advice for coping. Rather, it was my own mind. Living in this world of social isolation, leaves us, often, to our own thoughts, our own ideas and our own patterns of coping with disappointment and loss. I tried crying it out - which, if you know me, that is unusual. I almost willed myself to cry and watched sad shows and movies, just to help myself elicit tears. It worked. I tried shouting to the sky, configuring multiple emails in my mind of how I would rectify the wrong I felt for my son. After all, it is one thing to hurt me, but an entirely different thing to hurt my child. I spent the majority of my time, talking to my son, encouraging him and figuring out, together with him, just how we could reconstruct this broken dream. Seems dramatic, huh? But - left to my own mind, the repetitive groundhog day effect magnified, it surely was real. And it sure hurt.
In the sweet book, the animals who tried to help were frustrated that the little boy did not listen to them. Though different, the anxiety animals of my mind also tried very diligently to help me cope with my son's (and my) lost dream. What ended up happening in the book, is that a little rabbit hopped along, snugged up beside the little boy and just listened. No talking, no suggesting, no encouraging, just silence. The little boy, then had the space to express himself in his own timeline. He eventually went through every emotion that the other animals suggested, but according to how he needed to process it, not at the prodding of someone else.
In my experience, those internal suggestions were loud, fueled by isolation and the unrelenting Groundhog Day effect of Covid-19. Being quiet enough to sit still and listen has truly seemed impossible. After all, I have been trapped in a house with three kids, two of which are LOUD and BIG boys. I have also been constantly working - whether on household chores, patient charts, bible studies, remote schooling organization, kids' sports planning, cooking, cleaning, dog-walking, exercising, etc. There just hasn't been a lot of time for quiet reflection.
The sweet listening rabbit of my mind was truly the soft voice of God that I was able to finally hear more clearly when my kids were out of school over the winter break. My other work continued but with one less stressor, I had the margin I needed to listen. I also had the gift of my son's tenderness and humility that resulted from his broken dream. As I sat in silence, I felt the nearness of God snug up to me. I no longer felt alone or that I was solely responsible for holding my son's self esteem in my hands. As I opened my white knuckled grip, I released all of my hurt to God and allowed Him to show me what He had already been doing while I had been flirting with the animals of my mind. All God wanted was for me to listen. He is always there, close and tender like the rabbit. But, I had to stop my trying to fix my pain (and my son's) my way.
My rabbit ears up, my attention was drawn towards my son on Christmas morning. He opened an ornament I had given him with a very meaningful message on it relating to the above disappointment in his life. He looked at it while I watched him and I saw the emotion in his ever so slightly wettened eyes. I paused and let that sink in and speak to my heart. God knew exactly what my son needed and He was letting me have a window into the goodness of what that was - building his character and humility - what an amazing lasting gift to witness.
In "Groundhog Day", Bill Murray got a "do-over" every day without consequence - until he got the day right. We don't have that. What we DO have, though, is the true gift of surrender of ourselves and of trying to figure it all out, trusting the One who sees the big picture. One of my favorite verses in the bible is "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9). God's way of understanding all that is going on and how it ultimately works for our good is something that our human minds were not made for. Not only am I able to relate to not understanding but feel such comfort that I am not intended to and that I can choose trust in someone who knows far better what is ultimately best for me - and my kids too.
My prayer is that my writing will open your mind to the possibility of something more than what you see. Because I feel touched by God and His love through His son, Jesus, and I truly love people, I write to share with you all. I want you all to feel the love of our Heavenly Father, His closeness like a warm rabbit, truly ready at all times to listen. I believe that we will get through this hard time in history together with love, patience, peace, kindness and unity. For me, those words characterize Jesus and the way He lived on this earth - such a wonderful role model of steadfast love and strength through the most difficult of times. His still small voice of reason is far better than the many loud and persuasive voices of this world of isolation.
It doesn't have to be Groundhog Day, again. Instead, we can chose the way of the rabbit, who is much like God. We can allow God's warm, soft, snug up to listen to us so that we can better listen to others - even if the pandemic mandates that be through a screen or social media interaction. Let's move from the groundhog way to the rabbit way of living. Amen.
Cori Doerrfeld is the author of "The Rabbit Listened" which inspired some of this post. :)