By Ben Swift
Groundhog Day. Not only is this movie a classic but it has gifted us with a term to describe the relentless, repetitive drudgery in which we often find ourselves. “How was your day dear?” “Oh, just another Groundhog Day.” Nothing more need be said, message received loud and clear.
The fact that so many of us identifies with Groundhog Day speaks volumes about our propensity to reflect on life and our part in it. Surely there must be more to life than just another Groundhog Day?
It’s questions like these that take you down the path of existentialist thinking; a path that seeks truth and meaning; a path focused on the question of what it means to live as a human being.
If you’re anything like me, you will have at some point in time, found yourself bewildered by the pursuits of humanity. Maybe I’m just being cynical but I find many of the activities that we hold up in worship to be, well, kind of ridiculous. Now, I’m not for a moment claiming any self-immunity to these bizarre behavioral patterns but rather I’m finding myself identifying more and more with the words in Ecclesiastes, “This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”
In the western world, sports stars are held up as modern-day warrior gods; heroes destined for an eternal legacy. How else could we justify paying these individuals higher wages than brain surgeons? Just step back and think about golf for a moment. Millions of dollars dedicated to hitting small white balls into small holes in the grass with metal sticks.
Why else would we open our minds to the wisdom of pop stars as they spray insults about the greed of politicians whilst flying in their own private jets to record lip-sync sessions on commercial TV?
There maybe some truth to Lady Gaga’s suggestion that we were all born this way? But I believe the answers to our human condition can be better found in Genesis. Here we find the fall of humanity; the original seed of our desire to be our own gods.
“For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5)
It is here in the original paradise called Eden that the desire to be like God sent us into a world of self-serving, humanity-worshiping pursuits, all of which equate to chasing the wind. ‘One may best describe the fundamental project of the human reality in saying that man is the being who projects to be God… [and] God represents the permanent limits in terms of which man understands his being.’ (Olson)
To put it another way, human beings, while striving constantly to be their own gods, exist in a state of anxiousness. They are endlessly faced with the reality that they can never become the true God. They may suppress this knowledge, bury it deep in their self-constructed denial, but they can never escape the moral law written permanently on their hearts. It is God who defines divinity and truth. It is exclusively He who holds the keys to the shackles of death; salvation exists in Christ alone. Therefore, humans remain haunted by the limits of their own humanity.
It is for this reason that Kierkegaard – possibly the father of existentialist thinking – believed that humans can only desire the eternal fullness that God alone possesses. Humanity can only hold to the uncontrolled, unpredictable pleasures and pains of this finite life.
“No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it.” (Ecclesiastes 8:17)
Surely the only way out of the existentialist conundrum can be found exclusively in the one who is both fully human and fully divine; The Christ. He, having intimate knowledge of all that it means to be human and to be all powerful and unlimited as only God is, provides us with the narrow path to salvation. For this reason we must die to self, only to gain true, eternal life in Christ.
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
Undoubtedly for most of us, life will continue to serve up Groundhog Days but also days of overwhelming pleasure and pain. There will be times to laugh, times to cry and seasons for everything under the sun. But like the existentialists, may we use these experiences to dig deeper into what it all means, seeking the truth about who we are as limited human beings.
It’s time to stop chasing the wind and to start resting in Christ.
Olson Robert, An Introduction to Existentialism, Dover Publications, NY, p. 59.