The first time I watched the movie Forrest Gump many years ago, I thought it was just an adventure story that luckily won 6 Academy Awards. When I watched it again a few days ago I have gained an expanded insight about grace…about how scandalous grace is.
Watching Forrest Gump again also deepened my understanding of the implications of grace in the daily basis, and once again threatened my strong sense of “deservingness.”
Forrest was not a matinee idol. He was a subject of ridicule for the educated, for the smart, for those people who think they are better than him. Forrest was a subject of irritation for Jenny, his girl who doesn’t want to be rescued and insisted that he doesn’t understand what love is.
Forrest was a subject of hatred and envy, and the cause of disappointment to his former lieutenant, who even labeled him “a moron who appears in the TV and makes fun of himself.” He was called “stupid” by his school mates, and considered as “local idiot” by a coach. He was supposed to be nothing—a nobody…an undeserving.
To many, Forrest is below normal, having low IQ, and a living joke of the town. He is not entitled to be popular, to be adored or even to be lucky. He doesn’t have what it takes.
But Forrest was graced. He is more than lucky, he is graced beyond belief. His life was full of unexpected thrill, unbelievable blessings, indescribable delight and fulfillment.
Just Like That?
Forrest Gump has become like a classic movie now. Maybe because deep within our hearts, we long to receive what Forrest received despite our strong denial of our own unworthiness. We still long for some kind of unexpected delight, a surprise gift, an extravagant blessing, something that we don’t have to earn, something free. Just like that!
I have noticed in the movie that Forrest, as he narrates his life, has a habit of asking, “Can you believe that?” and a habit of exclaiming, “Just like that!” Have you noticed that too in the movie?
As I ponder more about it, I realized: grace is “just like that!” no works required, no strings attached, no payment to follow, no conditions to keep. Can you believe that?
The movie begins and ends with a feather “so light no one knows where it might land,” remarks Philip Yancey. And indeed, it landed in front of a low IQ, undeserving man. Just Like that! The undeserving boy who had a back “as crooked as a politician” becomes the fastest runner in his place, in his time. The low IQ, below normal student, later received a Medal of Honor, became pingpong champion, invited by the President of the U.S. more than once, and gathered followers from the street as he ran during the time when he just felt like running. Run Forrest, run!
Being so graced, Forrest became a living dispenser of grace—the one who truly understands what love is, knows what it means to be loyal, and exemplifies the virtue of forgiveness. “No Forrest, you don’t know what love is!” his unfaithful Jenny accused him just after he rescued her. No Jenny, you’re wrong, Forrest knows exactly what love is. And he’s demonstrating it all the time.
The concept of grace awakens in us an excruciatingly painful realization that in the eyes of God, we stand in common ground. No one is holier or more deserving. No one can boast. No one is better. We are all the same. We all sinned. This implies that we cannot or should not compare ourselves with others in terms of “being deserving.”
Grace challenges our most embraced self-deceptive lie: that we are more deserving of praise, of reward, of recognition, of heaven…than others. Grace opens our eyes so we can see that grace doesn’t choose based on performance, that, like the feather in the beginning and end of the movie, it may land to anybody regardless of status and intelligence, of titles and ranks. Just like that!
In my last post, Unlikely Protagonist, I explored about how I normally identify myself with the protagonist whenever I watch movies. And I seldom recognize that in front of God or perhaps with other people, I more resemble the antagonists than the protagonist.
Now, looking in ourselves with grace-filled lenses in our hearts, we come in contact—face to face—with the our true status before God. Because of our realization, we no longer identify with the protagonist whenever we watch movies. Instead, we realize that in God’s perspective we resemble the antagonists, the sinners, the undeserving. But we are being accepted—just like that!
Like Forrest, this grace lens helps us to be compassionate with others, to be forgiving, to dispense grace to the undeserving, to be humble. Because of grace we become slow in judging others—believing that the grace of God will land to them as it did to Forrest Gump, free of charge, no works required, no merits to be earned, no diplomas or certificates to boast, no strings attached…all is free. Just like that! Can you believe that?