Made 20 years ago the movie focused on a man who had a unique quality. He always told the truth.
It follows his life from childhood where things were not easy for Forrest because he was different.
As a young man, he joins the US Army and soon afterward he finds himself in Vietnam with his best friend in the world, Bubba, and his commanding officer Lieutenant Dan.
In one scene, we see the men involved in a battle and Forest carries his gravely wounded friend Bubba out of harm’s way only to have him die in his arms moments later. He also saves a seriously injured Lieutenant Dan who believes it is his destiny to die in battle. Dan does not perish from his wounds, but he does lose both his legs to amputation.
The scene I want to share with you takes place on Forrest’s shrimp boat. Lt. Dan has come to live with Forrest, but he remains an angry and bitter man. He asks Forrest a simple question- Where is your God Forrest? In a voice-over Forrest says that God must have heard Lieutenant Dan because at that very moment, the winds of a hurricane start to blow.
Next we find Dan up in the lookout tower having a raging argument with God. He dares God to come and get him.
When the storm ends we see a transformed Lieutenant Dan. His anger has left him, and he looks at his friend and says, “You know Forrest I don’t think I ever thanked you for saving my life.” He then jumps into the water and starts to swim as if he has been freed from some heavy chains that were holding him down.
While watching his friend swimming freely, Forrest comes to the conclusion that on that stormy night Lieutenant Dan had made his peace with God.
I wanted to share this story with you because a few months ago someone asked me a simple question:
Is it ok to be mad at God?
He was asking because someone he knows seems locked into a state of being angry with God, and he was concerned about this behaviour.
I thought about the question for a moment and simply answered: If you can’t be mad at God, then who can you be angry with!
Some may want to argue with this simple answer, but I have been reflecting on it for weeks now and the more I think about it the answer becomes clearer in my mind.
Let me explain my sense of clarity in this area-although I do admit there is room here for others to challenge me as being too simple in my approach- much like Forest Gump perhaps.
There are many things that make us different as Christians from others who believe in a supreme being. The most significant difference is obvious. As followers of Christ, we believe that our God so loved the world he sent his only Son to be with us, and Jesus was fully human and divine.
Jesus is our God but unlike any of the other great religions of the world, our God knows what it means to have lived experiencing the full range of human emotions.
He knew joy and friendship. He loved his family. He grieved at the loss of his close friend Lazarus where he wept at his tomb. He would have known the sense of kinship at the last supper which was soon followed by the hurt of betrayal and abandonment only hours later at the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus also knew anger.
There are many reasons to be angry at God. In an earlier version of this homily, I had several detailed real-life experiences where I witnessed people who had every right to hate God for the injustices they have experienced. I have to admit there have been times in my life, some recently, when I thought God must hate me for some unknown reason.
Anger is a naturally-occurring human emotion. It just happens. The key question is not is it ok to be angry but rather what is our response to that anger.
I would like to use the gospel reading today as a metaphor for one possible way to deal with the anger we feel towards God, the world, and most likely at a particular person or group of people.
In our gospel story, Jesus puts the disciples into a boat and tells them to proceed to the other side. He leaves them to pray. I am pretty sure that for most of the journey, the disciples do not even think about Christ as the sailing was smooth.
But then something changes and the waves and the wind start to batter the boat. Although it is left unsaid in the gospel, it is not unlikely that the disciples may well have felt abandoned by Jesus in their hour of greatest need.
In the gospel we are told, they are afraid, but we can substitute the word angry for some of them may well have blamed God for the storm.
The boat is a symbol of our lives and the raging seas our anger. We can get so comfortable in this state of being upset over some storm that has come into our lives; we fail to see that Jesus is always with us. To be healed, we need to find the courage to overcome our anger and to get out of the boat and walk towards Jesus. We need to trust that he will be there waiting for us right in the middle of the stormy waves of our life.
He tells Peter in the story- he tells all of us, especially when we are lost, perhaps awash in a negative emotion like anger, Do Not Be Afraid- I am with you until the end of the age.
Even if we do trust enough to get out of the boat of our anger, we may falter and start to sink again into a rage or the depths of despair.
Why does this happen? One reason is that when you move towards Jesus, you may start to see things in a different way, and that can be uncomfortable. You may see that your anger is turning into bitterness, and it is eating you alive. You may see that to be free you will have to offer someone forgiveness for the wrong that has transpired.
You may discover that the person you need to forgive is yourself.
Anger and resentment can become a way of life. Even though we are unhappy, perhaps miserable, we find that we have become comfortable in our misery.
Reaching out to Jesus during these times and embracing his teachings can be difficult, it requires a great deal of trust and faith, but if we take his hands, the seas will eventually calm. We will be able to get back into the boat of our life and continue the journey.
When we learn how to trust in Jesus completely, we will be able to weather the next storm, for there is always another storm.
If we listen carefully we will be able to hear him reassuring us that we have nothing to fear, and if we find the courage to take is hand, we will see that it is possible to Go in Peace, and even though we have been battered and bruised we can always choose to glorify the Lord, by the way, we choose to live our lives.