Life as a Do-Over
Every year around this time I enjoy watching one of my favorite movies. Ground Hog Day came out in 1993 and it stars Bill Murray and Andie McDowell. In the film, Bill Murray plays an egocentric TV weatherman from Pittsburgh, Phil Conners, who is assigned, as he has been in years past, to cover the annual Ground Hog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. He hates the yearly assignment of reporting on the village ground hog and whether or not the animal sees its shadow and all he wants is to complete the assignment and return home. Once there, the story taped and completed, an unexpected snow storm descends on the area and he finds himself stuck in this small town. Even worse is the fact that he keeps waking up and repeating the same despised day over and over again. Conner wastes the repeat day with numerous acts of selfishness, outrageous adventures, and even several suicide attempts until he finally begins to use the twenty-four hours as an opportunity to examine his life.
It’s kind of like having a “do-over” day. When I was a kid, that’s what we called taking another time at bat, getting an extra kick in kick ball, and having a second swing at the golf tee, a do-over. I have often wished for such an opportunity after an argument with a friend or a failed attempt in the pulpit, uninspired leadership at a committee meeting or a loss of encouraging words while sitting next to a patient in a hospital bed. There have been times when I have made such a mess of things in relationships or in ministry that I wished I could just have the chance to try again, wipe the slate clean and start over. And yet, when I watch this movie I have to wonder if I would be like the character Murray plays and just keep making the same mistake again and again.
I heard once that we repeat our life lessons until we finally learn them. The people with whom we interact, our teachers of the lessons, and the circumstances may change but if we’re paying attention, it’s actually the same situation replaying over and over, allowing us the opportunity finally to get it right, that life is itself, a do-over.
By the end of the movie Bill Murray’s character finally gets it. He re-examines his values and his life, making the decision to do things differently. After living his do-over day in complete hedonism and selfishness, it’s as if he finally wakes up, enlightened to the life he really wants and committed to engage in the day set before him. And of course, in the realm of movie magic, when that finally happens, the egocentric weatherman doesn’t have to repeat Ground Hog Day ever again. I keep hoping the same thing for myself when I get a do-over. And just like Phil Conners, I hope that maybe this time I’ll get it right.