It truly is an amazing and incomprehensible thought: that a creature weighing approximately 15 pounds with a life expectancy of only 6 years is actually 131 years old! It sounds crazy, no doubt, but more than 40,000 people saw him in "person" last week.
His name is Phil, and he lives in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. While it is true that Phil made his official debut in 1887, evidence of a Groundhog Day has been traced as far back as 1840 in the diary of a James L. Morris. So, we really do not know Phil's real age! The folks in Gobbler's Knob have turned to Phil every year on Feb. 2 for his prediction concerning the arrival of Spring.
Today Punxsutawney has a population of just under 6,000 residents. We can only imagine the organized chaos when nearly 8 times that many people inundate the small town to experience the celebration and hopefully catch a glimpse of ol' Phil. Considering that his accuracy rate has been estimated as low as 39 percent, he is quite a popular fellow. Actually, he owes a much of his fame to the 1993 film which boosted attendance from 2,000 to 10,000 in a single year. That number continues to grow.
I normally stay clear of controversial topics, but there are some people who assert that last week's Phil is not the same groundhog that appeared back in 1887; that he is not actually 131 years old. They argue that each time the groundhog dies, he is secretly replaced by another groundhog so as to protect the Punxsutawney legend. They are able to play the charade because, apparently, "they all look alike."
Weather forecasters have a difficult task. To what extent, I wonder, is their job security connected to the accuracy of their forecasts. Baseball players are rarely expected to get a base hit more than 25-30 percent of their batter's box appearances. Pilots, on the other hand, are expected to successfully land their planes 100 percent of the time. So, what about the weather?
Whatever their accuracy rate, it must be better than satisfactory, because they began to predict forecasts beyond the 24-hour mark. There are 3-day, 5-day, and even 9-day forecasts on most local news channels. As we might imagine, the accuracy of weather pattern predictions decrease for these longer periods of time.
Punxsutawney Phil and local weather forecasters share a common challenge: nature refuses to be bound by animal or human control. I do respect our weather forecasters, but it is almost comical to see the possible hurricane models, all in different colors on the map, predicted by our weather channels. Yes, I agree that the storm likely will take one of the 15 or 20 tracks that appear on the map! Such storms will always have "an air" of unpredictability in them!
In the book of Job, God laid claim to every power on earth. Nature is God's creation. The earth is the Lord's and everything in it. He orchestrates the universe; He is sovereign above the plants, animals, storms, seas, winds, and humanity with all of its agencies and technologies and politics and philosophies. He cannot be bound by human thought or prediction. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts," declares the Lord. (Isaiah 55:9). Therein do we ultimately find our rest.
Steven Callis is the minister at First Church of the Nazarene in Douglasville.