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James Bond: The Draw of Being in Control

Everybody loves James Bond. Well, almost everybody. Not if you are a criminal mastermind bent on world destruction (or particularly the destruction of Queen and country). But we’ll just assume that if you’re reading this your name isn’t Goldfinger or Christoph Waltz.

A staple of American culture, we are fascinated by the stories of Bond. Through the decades he has been played by different actors, some awesome (Sean Connery) some not as much (looking at you Pierce) but nonetheless, the agent who always wins has accomplished what other actors have failed to do—longevity.

Why is this? It could hypothetically be attributed to a number of factors: his dashing good looks, expertise at multiple weaponry, having a liver as durable as a howitzer—but other non-long lasting characters have these also (i.e. Tom Cruise in Oblivion, Brad Pitt in Mr. and Mrs. Smith, every character in the Hangover).

I would assert that it is none of these things, but rather, the sense of being in control that Bond has. No matter what situation or scrape he may find himself in, Bond continually maintains his head. Whether it is playing high stakes poker, driving nice cars at ridiculously unsafe speeds or being tortured with a seatless chair and a coil of wet rope (put that on the list of things I never want to do), Bond always seems to be in control, even when the situation would seem he is not.

That’s the difference between movies and real life. You may not be a world-class secret agent. You may not be a master of illusion. You may not like things shaken or stirred. But that isn’t why Bond is loved. Other characters have done these same things and have been lost to the vaults of movie history. Bond is attractive to us because he is never powerless.

And although we love him for it, we are also disillusioned by it. Why aren’t we like that? Why can’t we achieve the same power over our lives that Bond has over his? We may not be able to shoot a gun with pinpoint accuracy, but if he finds himself in these drastic situations and maintains his cool, shouldn’t we be able to when we are stuck in traffic for half an hour?

The thing is, no one is in that much control. No matter what your position in life, there will always be variables. Always things that don’t go your way, situations that leave you at their mercy. So while Bond is loved by all and a character who many aspire to be like, that just isn’t the way life works.

On a weekend retreat a few years ago, the speaker talked about how our biggest problems were caused by the constant pursuit to have the omni qualities of God: Omnipresent, Omnipotent, etc. Basically what he was saying was that our frequent anxiety, disappointment and feelings of failure were because we are consistently disappointed because we are not in control.

We struggle because we try to take the position of God. We want to be unwavering and in control. We want to be everywhere at once, and able to do everything we think we are supposed to do. We try to be God.

But we can’t. We aren’t in control. We aren’t everywhere at once. We aren’t God. That is why we like James Bond, who is seemingly a god over his surroundings. Unshakeable and untouched. That isn’t life though. We can’t be James Bond, and we can’t be God. But more importantly, we shouldn’t be.

The beauty of life is that we aren’t always in control. As created beings, we never will be. If we were, life wouldn’t be life at all. You would be the same as a statue or a traffic light: unmoving, untouchable, cold and ultimately alone. We see this with Bond to an extent—although he has relationships with an astounding number of women, he always ends up alone again. Works alone, lives alone, is alone. But not being in control allows us to be in community with people who are the same as us: broken, happy, sad, confused; fill in the blank. To not be in control, to not be God, is a gift. A gift of community. A gift of love. And ultimately, a gift of a Savior. We may not be able to defuse a bomb while fighting off communists, but we are able to be in a relationship with God because we are not Him. And that is worth so much more than power.

James Harris

James is probably the 3rd or 4th funniest guy you know. Funny enough to invite to a party; not witty enough to talk about later. Co-Founder and Content Editor of Everyday Exiles, Director of College Ministry at Reynolda Church, EPC, and husband to Meredith. He has a dog named Calvin, a cat named Opie, and a robot vacuum named Alfred.

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