One February my local Christian radio station covered live the events unfolding in the small town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. In fact, since 1887, Punxsutawney has been the host for rodent worship, attracting many visitors from all over the world. Well, maybe not worship, but Groundhog Day is huge in this small town of just over 6,100 and Phil is top dog, uh, I mean, hog. This groundhog has it going on, he has his own handler (and friend, according to his groundhog web site), who holds the record for kissing a groundhog more times than any other human being. A record I’m sure he’ll probably keep. Phil even has his own fan base, which seems to be quite…“devoted”. One out-of-town visitor who traveled from California said:
“I’ve always dreamed of coming to see Punxsutawney Phil,” she added. “It’s in my genes. I have just always wanted to do this.”
The trip was a birthday gift from her husband…yep, he got off real easy!
This yearly Phil frenzy has its roots in an old German tradition who believed that if a hibernating animal casts a shadow Feb. 2 — the Christian holiday of Candlemas (the annual blessing of candles used in Mass) — winter will last another six weeks. If no shadow is seen, spring will come early. The old German saying goes something like this.
“When the bear sees his shadow at Candlemas, he will crawl back into his hole for another six weeks.”
Let’ see, legend has shadow forecasting starting off with a bear and moving on to the humble groundhog. Could it be because a groundhog is lot easier (and safer) to pull out of his home then a bear would be? No doubt much easier to kiss too. All this got me thinking (you knew it would) about shadows, yep, shadows. The kind we cast over all the relationships in our lives.
“How precious is your loving kindness, God! The children of men take refuge under the shadow of your wings.” Psalm 36:7
Under the shadow of the Father we find shelter, protection, rest and encouragement. It’s the best sun block available, shading us from the harmful rays of despair and fear. The Hebrew word for shadow expresses a feeling of “hovering over” a covering that invites us in, not just for protection, but also for relationship. Like the Father, we need to be like the shadow of a great rock. Look at this verse in Isaiah 32:2.
“And a man shall be a hiding place from the wind, a shelter from the tempest, as streams of water in a dry place; like the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.”
That Scripture in Isaiah reminds me of this quote, see if this resonates in you.
“Great men are not the whole of life; but they are the condition of all the rest; if it were not for the big men, the little ones could scarcely live…In the East…where the desert touches a river-valley or oasis, the sand is in a continual state of drift from the wind…which is the real cause of the barrenness of such portions of the desert at least as abut upon the fertile land…But set down a rock on the sand, and see the difference its presence makes. After a few showers, to the leeward side of this some blades will spring up; if you have patience, you will see in time a garden. How has the boulder produced this? Simply by arresting the drift.
Now this is exactly how great men benefit human life. A great man serves his generation, serves the whole race, by arresting the drift.” - George Adam Smith
Isaiah mentions three difficult parts about the weary land, first the wind, then the tempest and finally, the dry place. He also tells how a man can be a hiding place, a shelter, streams and a rock in that hard place. I think he’s giving some great coaching for dads, here’s why.
Shalom fathers give perspective in times of change (wind), provide a safe place to question in the storms of life (tempest) and supply refreshment in a season of doubt (dry place). We can be that rock (Hebrew word means, fortress, or stronghold) that arrest drift in the lives of our love ones. Shalom shadows are good places for getting close, for growing relationships and developing character. Here we can help define faith, purpose and favor, all wonderful and powerful shadows. Dads, we can forecast a future of promise for our children, all without kissing one single groundhog.
To that we say…Come Jehovah-Shalom, the Lord our peace.