February 2, 2021
If you watched Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day in 1993 (can it really be that long ago?), then you know the premise—Murray’s character, Phil, awakens to the same day again and again and again. That is how my prayer life–not to mention my actual life–has felt during these long months of plague and politics. Day after day, again and again, I lift up all those affected by Covid; those who are seriously ill or dying; those who are unemployed and struggling; those who are waiting for vaccinations (including me); those who are living alone, like my daughter; those who are the decision-makers; those giving care in the medical field; and especially those in my circle of friends and family who have been touched by the virus, even as I ask for a circle of protection around those I love. Each day. Again and again.
Then I lift up those in political leadership and ask for hearts to turn from anger to cooperation; to turn from selfishness to servanthood, to turn from deceit to truth. I ask for protection for those who have been threatened by violence and courage for leaders to denounce such threats, to serve country instead of a person. I ask that the United States become united in compassion and generosity and good stewardship. Over and over. And on some weary days, I simply lift all my prayers in one bundle: “Here are my Groundhog Day prayers.” Again. I doubt I am alone.
We often place great expectations on God or the Universe or a Higher Power. If we “rub the lamp” the right way, a spiritual genie will appear who will grant all our wishes and correct our mistakes, and do so quickly. But when that genie isn’t forthcoming, or doesn’t respond in the way that we wish and at the moment we desire, how do we persevere in prayer? In hope? What resources do we need to hold on for the long term? Or, why even bother if no one is listening?
Life has never been easy. Simply reflect on the lives of people who have gone before us and what they modeled for us. I remember my mother who was widowed after 34 years of marriage and went on to live more years widowed than married. I think of how she lost a three-year old daughter to leukemia, despite her prayers, and then, much later, her beloved firstborn son died unexpectedly in his sleep. Yet she went on. My mother held to a deeply-rooted belief that she was not alone, and she often repeated her favorite phrase from the ancient mystic, Julian of Norwich: “All shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.” Whether things were actually “well” or not, my mother stay grounded even while her life unfolded in unexpected ways.
What resources do I need to hold tight to that same conviction as I lift my same prayers? Trust, yes, but also patience. Perhaps we can’t have one without the other. I also need encouragement from others who remind me that, at some point, at least “some” things will be well again, and some things are well, even now. I need wisdom to make life-giving and light-giving choices, and I need a wellspring of compassion for all who inhabit this same world as I do.
To answer the question, Why bother if no one is listening? At the end of Groundhog Day, “Phil” has changed, been refined, even redeemed to a certain degree. He learns how to love and receive love. His life moves on, in a more meaningful and aware way. Instead of staying stuck, focused only on himself, he is able to give. As I continue to lift my Groundhog Day prayers, I ask that they be received as a gift for this world, not a long list of requests to a God who must also be so weary. Even if these prayers aren’t answered in my time and in my way, I, too, may be changed, refined, even redeemed by the very act of gifting and praying them. Instead of staying stuck, or giving up, I turn toward the world in a new way. Blessings ~ Rosemary