In the imaginary world of the American novelist Winston Groom, Forrest Gump celebrates his 75th birthday this year though most of us only encountered him in 1994 through the whimsical film that bears his name. He is the gentle giant with a low IQ who has the knack of turning the rocks of life into nuggets of gold. (His homespun philosophy quotes are given in italic script.) Mama always said: Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Forrest’s outlook on life is like that because his mother, Mrs Gump, instilled into him the challenge you have to do the best with what God gave you. There are many elements of faith both in the novel and in the film; something we all must discover as we live out our own pilgrimage.
At the heart of our faith is the belief that we live in a God active world. One of our familiar prayers puts it this way. “Go before us, O Lord, in all our doings with your gracious favour that in all our works, begun, continued and ended in you, we may praise your holy name.”
God is always with those yearning for His justice, freedom and gentleness and He is waiting for us to act on their behalf. There is so much pain in human misery, suffering, exploitation and poverty and God is already expecting us to be with Him where human dignity is denied.
Forrest Gump encountered in his life the Vietnam war and its aftermaths, the HIV/Aids epidemics, the poverty of unemployment, bereavements and other issues which rocked him. He shares his frustrations about human frailties in his cutting words, stupid is as stupid does: words that will call to account the powers that be whoever they are. Yet like us he has hope for humanity because God is always alive and busy in His world. My mama always told me that miracles happen every day. Some people don’t think so, but they do.
Important as it is to alleviate all that is wrong in this world, unless we continually pray about such concerns, we shall lose God’s vision of the Creation and the beauty and depth in our faith. Forrest Gump is a parable for our times which echoes, in his simplicity, the trenchant words of Jesus as found in The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12).St Paul also compares and contrasts the wisdom of God and the foolishness of our humanity as an important example of how the gospel of Christ can transform our understanding of our place in the world and in God’s scheme of things. (1 Corinthians 1:27)
As Fr. Faber puts it in his famous hymn” There’s a wideness in God’s mercy”- “if our love were but more simple, we should take him at his word: and our hearts would find assurance in the promise of the Lord.”
That’s all I have to say about that.
Canon George Burgon