Back in 1969, after Sean Connery had retired from playing “James Bond,” George Lazenby was recruited to do the next movie in the 007 series, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” His manager advised Lazenby not to sign a multi-movie contract because the manager was sure the 007 thing was destined to fade. Of course we all know that the 007 thing did NOT fade. The list of actors who have played James Bond includes, besides Connery and Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig.
Why so many “Bonds”? Why not keep the same actor for all those films? You die laughing as you imagine a geriatric James Bond shuffling along with his walker toward the international evil guy. You know why the actors keep changing! James Bond must always be young, muscular, sexy, mobile, and IN CONTROL. There’s a good reason why Sean Connery left the 007 franchise and went to playing Indiana Jones’ dad (“Indiana Jones” being another version of James Bond, played by a young Harrison Ford, who himself has started playing decaying curmudgeons). If the film makers adhered to just one James Bond, showed him aging so that he could no longer win fights or get the girl/s, it would illustrate the kind of truth most of us go to 007 films to escape: no matter how much power we may accumulate, eventually, it fades and we learn that ultimately, we are NOT in control.
Humans love projections of power. The pan-human propensity toward empire illustrates this and so much of what we do individually to build a career, amass a personal portfolio, and gain credibility, are all designed, whether we’re conscious of it or not, to give us a sense of power and control. Nothing is worse than feeling out of control.
In my own religious history, even the prayers I was taught to pray attempted to exert control over God. I was told that if I prayed the so-called “sinners prayer,” God HAD to save me and reserve a place in heaven for me. If I did my religion right, said the right words, and practiced the right rituals, I could control my eternal destiny. It didn’t occur to me until much later in life that that sort of mentality has more in common with magical thinking than it does with mature Christian spirituality.
The transformation God brings about in our souls when we open ourselves to the working of God’s spirit occurs in a way our rational, in-control minds simply cannot comprehend. If we desire for God to work in us, we must quit trying to do the work ourselves. This is one reason why I hate the term “prayer warrior.” Besides the allusion to violence which the term evokes, it implies that we can apply our James Bond myth to our spiritual transformation. When we get strong enough, we think, we can dictate the progress of our maturation. Nothing could be further from the truth. When God is all around us, there’s no need to “assault” Heaven.
As God’s transformational process takes root and moves in our lives, inevitably we come face to face with our darkest secrets, our most fixed prejudices, and our deepest wounds. The “warrior” part of us that wants to remain in control attempts to hold all these weaknesses at bay. However, when God exposes our secrets, we become more authentic. When God confronts our prejudices, we become more just. And when God fingers our deepest wounds, we find healing. You can’t force this kind of transformational work. It moves according to God’s schedule. Your only effort is to make yourself open to it, and it’s the only work with lasting results. As the Apostle Paul said, it’s in our very weaknesses, which our warrior self wants to hide, where God gives us strength.
Even Daniel Craig will eventually retire from the franchise, which means that James Bond’s face will change yet again. What never changes is God’s free gift of transformation made real in our very weakness.
You know, if we could control it, it wouldn’t really be all that great, would it?