“The Christian message says that the eternal stands
above past and future.
‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end."
I took a break from reading the other day and went to CVS on an errand. I had been reading Paul Tillich’s The Eternal Now, which is a collection of his sermons about how the presence of God manifests in daily life.
This was on my mind as I waited in line at CVS and saw a display that said I could wrap Christmas gifts in Elf Snot, which evidently is a trademarked product aimed at gleefully generating mild disgust on Christmas morning. I found myself wondering if Paul Tillich would buy Elf Snot. Is it part of the “eternal now”?
The movie Groundhog Day, which came out 25 years ago, has become a cultural touchstone and a source of reflection about the power of the present moment. Bill Murray plays a TV weather reporter who travels to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to cover Groundhog Day festivities. While there, he finds himself in a time loop in which he relives the day over and over again. There are a number of movies that use variations on this theme, but Groundhog Day is the best-known and most-successful.
The same sort of time loop happens in a 2017 film called Before I Fall, where the main character, played by Zooey Deutch, is a popular girl in high school. At the start of the movie she dies in an automobile accident but finds herself waking up at home to relive her last day again.
This cinematic device allows her to examine her relationships with her family and friends, and to reassess the habits she has developed and the choices she has made. At first she is confused and just trying to make sense of it all—there are a lot of funny and strange moments. As the day continues to repeat, she starts to get angry at everyone’s hypocrisy and shallowness. She takes it upon herself to deliver hard truth in harsh words to her friends, family and strangers, who are put off and wonder what’s wrong with her.
The movie is entertaining and has many silly moments, but takes a serious turn as Deutch’s character begins to deeply appreciate each encounter of her day. As she walks down the hall of her high school, she cheerfully tells a stranger opening his locker to be careful, because she knows that everything in his locker will fall out when he opens it.
In the middle of a routine conversation she tells her best friend, whose deep troubles are masked by a hard facade, that she loves her and knows that she’s had to deal with a lot of pain in her life. Her friend is surprised and clearly moved, but responds by saying that Deutch’s character is “really weird.”
And that could be our response, too. In the course of our daily tasks and busy-ness, it can seem out of place and even unnatural for a friend, family member or (gulp) stranger to tell us how much we mean to them. It might be really weird.
This week, my prayer for all of us is that we have many of these weird moments! By the way, please don’t buy me any Elf Snot. I have plenty. I stocked up while I was at CVS.
See you in church!