November 2, 2015

Choice, Chance, or Grace

By Pam Webber

The symbolism of the floating feather in Tom Hanks’ movie Forrest Gump is rich with meaning. At the beginning of the movie, a feather appears to float serendipitously in on a breeze, landing in an open copy of Forrest’s favorite book, Curious George.

Look a little closer and you'll see that the feather lands on the page where the little monkey is balancing himself on a tightrope. One wrong step left or right and everything changes, and not necessarily for the better.

Winston Groom, the author of the book and screenplay for Forrest Gump, used the tightrope to symbolize destiny. Throughout out the movie, he had Forrest trying to balance his mother’s belief that destiny is like a box of chocolates, and you never know what you’re going to get, against Lieutenant Dan’s adamant belief that nothing occurs by chance, and everyone has a predetermined destiny to fulfill. By the end of the movie, Forrest comes to the conclusion that “maybe it’s both.”  I agree with him, but with a twist.

That twist is chance-by-grace. Forrest was a man of faith, and Lieutenant Dan was struggling to find it. One of the most powerful scenes in the movie is when an angry Lieutenant Dan battles God during a storm and afterward finds peace in the realization that he was living his destiny. The intersection of faith and destiny for Forrest and Lieutenant Dan was the culmination of choice and chance-by-grace.

Most of us dance with choice and chance on a daily basis, but it is not a haphazard dance. We strategically make the best choices we can given our genes, education, experiences, and faith, and if those choices place us in the right place at the right time, grace disguised as chance picks us up and moves us to unexpected, but intentional places.

While completing my first novel, The Wiregrass, I danced with choice and chance-by-grace over and over again, I was just not aware of it. Looking back, it is easy to see how their synergy either moved me forward or pushed me in a different direction altogether. Ultimately, their dance helped produce a novel I’m very proud to call mine.

Choices and chance-by-grace placed incredible people in my path. From my publisher, editor, and publicist, to an incredibly talented community of writers, I have an incredible team, and I am grateful. Any other steps left or right along my tightrope, and The Wiregrass would be different, and probably less.

At the end of Forrest Gump, the feather falls from the pages of Curious George and is once again picked up by a breeze, floating along in the clouds until this chance-by-grace breeze brings the feather right to us. The choice to grab it or not is ours.
Pam Webber is a nationally certified nurse practitioner and award-winning university-level nursing educator. She has published numerous articles and co-authored four editions of a nursing textbook. Pam resides in Virginia’s Northern Shenandoah Valley with her husband. The Wiregrass is her first novel. Find Pam at Facebook Twitter Goodreads Pinterest

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