Reflections on Forrest Gump: Forrest knows what love is


Forrest Gump says “I’m not a smart man but I know what love is.” And he does. He loves his Momma, Bubba, Lt. Dan, and, most of all, Jenny.

Forrest shows his love for his mother by remembering and respecting what she teaches him. Mrs. Gump equips Forrest with an outlook that marks the way he processes the things that happen to him throughout his life. It is Forrest’s acceptance of whatever comes out of the “box of chocolates” that allows him to become a participant in historic events without questioning whether he belongs there. He accepts himself and believes he has something to offer because His mother instilled worth and confidence in him. He values other people in the way Mrs. Gump teaches him to value himself.

Forrest rushes into the Vietnam jungle to save his friend Bubba and ends up saving four other men. Forrest honors Bubba by following through with the plans they made to go into the shrimping business even though Bubba is dead. So deep is Forrest’s connection to his friend that he shares his fortune with Bubba’s family even though he doesn’t know them well and they think he’s stupid.

One of the men Forrest saves in Vietnam is his lieutenant. Lt. Dan believes he is destined to die a hero, but winds up an amputee in a wheelchair. He blames Forrest. In spite of Dan’s anger and abusive rants, Forrest invites Dan to shrimp with him. Dan is finally able to recognize that his anger at Forrest is misplaced, Forrest never gives up on Dan, always believing he will eventually find his way. He loves and accepts him in all his bitterness and despair. Forrest turns Dan’s sarcastic challenge to ask God for help into an honest request and, as Forrest puts it, “God showed up.” After a Jacob-like night of wrestling with God in the middle of a hurricane, Dan finds peace and renewed purpose.

Forrest’s love for Jenny stretches across decades. When she finally escapes to college Jenny idealistically thinks that she will find fulfillment and satisfaction in love. Forrest listens to her dreams of flying away like a bird, singing her songs, and making a difference. He supports those dreams even if that means she has to go away from him.  Jenny can’t recognize how Forrest could possibly measure up to what she wants for herself. As a victim of childhood sexual abuse Jenny is so damaged that she keeps entering into the same dysfunctional relationships based on sex and drugs rather than love.  In spite of her rejection, Forrest keeps showing up when she needs him and defending her. No matter what Jenny does, his doors and his arms are always open. Eventually she finds healing and peace with Forrest. Jenny loves Forrest because he has taught her what love is.

Forrest may have had a 75 IQ but his heart is remarkably pure and mature. He loves the way love is described in I Corinthians 13. Forrest is patient and kind. He’s not envious, boastful, or proud. He honors others, loves unselfishly, forgives easily, and only gets angry when he sees someone he loves being hurt. Forrest tells the truth. He protects those he loves and keeps hoping, against all odds,  for their good. Forrest humbly offers himself, never letting rejection, or even death, keep him from being true to those he loves. In the end knowledge and prophecy fail, but faith, hope and love remain. And love is the greatest of all.

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