St. Groundhog Day
Years ago, I made the uncanny connection between “Punxy” Phil (I can’t spell his full name) the famous groundhog who is the wise determiner of the length of the winter season as a metaphor for the spiritual life. We in Texas don’t pay much attention to him because winter here, well, it just isn’t. The metaphor runs so strong for me that I personally “canonized” Punxy in my personal favorite collection of saints.
During the years I lived in Wyoming and Colorado, I would pray that “Punxy” wouldn’t see his shadow and that the severity of the winters there would be cut short. I especially prayed for “Punxy” to not see his shadow while living in the sunless overcast dreariness of Ohio where I suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder in the winter. A shortened winter would mean sunshine in March which would not have been witnessed for but on the average of 5 days a month since Thanksgiving.
What caught my attention about “Punxy” Phil was the idea that he is about looking for his shadow. That idea grabbed me, having studied the concept of the Shadow in the role of spiritual formation and life.
The Shadow is the part of us (beliefs, attitudes, feelings, faults etc.—the “dark side”) that we’re not comfortable with which is held in our unconscious. The problem with all of this being held in the unconscious is that it can influence and direct our lives without our being aware of it, creating chaos and suffering. This is where the words of the gospeler John come into play: The Light has shined in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. Allowing the Spirit of God to shine light in our dark places points to our main task during the upcoming season of Lent. Seeking out and exploring our Shadow takes work, far much more than simply giving up chocolate or things such as this. Looking into discovering our shadows requires that we go down deep with the groundhog into our hole within to await the Light from God.
Once the Spirit shines light on our shadow, that which was unconscious begins to become conscious and starts to lose its hold upon us. The church terms used for this process of uncovering is “purgation, forgiveness, reconciliation, awakening, salvation and the like. Once the shadow is exposed to light, beings to fragment and release its power over us, we begin to return to our original selves that God has created in His Image and Likeness. Such is an experience of the greatest freedom of all: the uncovering of the soul to live in communion and harmony with God. Only then can we begin to experience what it’s like to begin to live in harmony with ourselves and with others.
So, Happy St. Groundhog’s Day! May the groundhog in you and the groundhog in me encourage each other to seek our shadows so that we may be raised with him in the Light of Jesus’ resurrection.