Groundhog Day is not a national holiday. Nobody gets a day off of work for the occasion. Still, it makes an appearance on almost every calendar I’ve ever seen. Why is that?
I used to joke with Marci that Groundhog Day is a day for honoring groundhogs and celebrating all their accomplishments. (See the illustration I made for her in the early days of our relationship, here to the right >>).
But even if you’re going off the idea that a groundhog has special predictive powers when it comes to the length of winter, it’s weird folklore. The logic behind the mythology is questionable. The results are unreliable (a quick internet search seems to indicate that the groundhog’s prediction accuracy is in the range of 35% to 50%). And most people don’t even understand the purported significance, anyway. Do we want the groundhog to see its shadow, or not?
It wasn’t until this week that I realized that the week of Groundhog Day is actually the half-way point of Winter.
For awhile now, I’ve set January – February of 2021 apart in my mind as the potential nadir of the COVID-19 crisis. Cold, lonely, fearful, hopeless… These months represent the wintriest-winter bringing the deepest hardships in a really hard year. Then yesterday, I heard Mark Johnson (meteorologist for News 5, WEWS out of Cleveland) say that this Thursday (February 4th) represents the official half-way point for winter. Presumably equidistant from the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. I found it interesting that these factors converge with Groundhog Day: all suggesting a place where we bottom out. Maybe the groundhog will predict an early Spring. Maybe the groundhog predicts another six weeks of Winter (which is really just the natural cycle, anyway). Or maybe it’s absurd to give so much significance to a groundhog — which is normally deep in the middle of its hibernation at this point of the year.
Anyway — as I’ve been seeking God through this Winter, I’ve been really encouraged and challenged to consider this half-way point. We’re half-way through the Winter. Maybe half-way through the worst stretch of the pandemic? Half-way through the cold, the loneliness, the fear and despair?
In some ways, the idea of being half-way through things can feel daunting. Like: all of those challenges we’ve endured, all that suffering, all that creative problem-solving, all that perseverance… we’ve got to run that back again. We’re “only” half-way there. A cruel reality check.
On the other hand, the idea of being half-way through things can feel encouraging and hopeful. Like: we’re hitting rock-bottom right now and can only go up from here. We’ve proven that we got what it takes to keep going, even through difficulties, so we just have to persevere. Keep it up. We’re “already” half-way there. Let’s not catastrophize; let’s stay realistic. Stay in the moment.
The more I pray about this, the more I feel hope. Still sober-minded; not euphoric. Just faith-fueled for the home stretch. I think we’re going to make it. Even so, I want to keep looking out for the stragglers, the ones who are struggling to stay the course — because I do sense that some are teetering on the brink — but I want to share my hope. My ultimate hope is restoration in Jesus. And it also feels good to have a half-way point to remind ourselves that we’re making progress.
Thank God for Groundhog Day.