I know that God threw a few “adjustments” to my life path in 2011. The biggest change though was finding out that my wife and I were expecting our first child in 2011. Despite having plans of the perfect baby, things don’t always turn out the way you want them to be. Our young son decided to say hi to us three months premature. After the shock wears off, you are left with of course the questions of “why” before you accept and your lives change forever.
I’m happy to say that our little boy is home and doing well but the journey to that point was a bit scary to say the least. Everyone around you says that they are praying for you and sharing encouraging words that are Bible inspired but words don’t always explain why things happen in the first place. The phrases, “The Lord works in mysterious ways” and “It’s all part of God’s plan for you” frankly sound like the words of a desperate person trying to make the best out of a melancholy situation. Perhaps that is why a film, The Adjustment Bureau, really resonated with me. Forgive me if it old news; this review is months after I missed it’s theatrical release—If you couldn’t tell by the sentences above I have been a bit overwhelmed since September.
The Adjustment Bureau is the tale of a politician, played by Matt Damon, who is on the fast track to the presidency. By chance he meets the girl of his dreams, never to see her again. However she becomes the inspiration he needs to carry on after a devastating loss. As life carries on we learn of a mysterious force known as “The Adjustment Bureau” ; They are a group of men designed to keep his “life plan” in motion by creating elements of chance that put him in the right place at the right time. Unfortunately The Bureau makes a mistake and Damon is exposed to their existence. Now forced to choose between carrying on with his life or finding the love of his life that they have forbidden him to see, the film becomes a tale of fate and chance and a twisted tale about “God’s plan” for every human life.
Before I go any further, I should say that The Adjustment Bureau really doesn’t come out and say it is a Christian film. In fact, one of the members of the Bureau tells Matt Damon that “The Chairman” of the Bureau has many names to humans, and to some the adjusters themselves have been called angels among other names. He doesn’t confirm or deny our belief in a higher power but simply brings to light that in this case there is someone watching over you with a master plan. The film delves into the thought of fate and free will and how sometimes “chance” happenings are created by The Chairman to keep you on track and sometimes other people are just the victim of random chance that inevitably cause adjustments to the plan but yield similar results. It is how the world works, and how we as humans must accept this.
Part of me was intrigued with the fact that a film was bold enough to point out the works of a divine creator in our lives, but another part of me questioned if the film took it far enough. The longer I have let the film marinate in my mind the more I think that this is a case where less is more. One of my problems with films such as Fireproof, Courageous and Faith Like Potatoes is that it beats us over the head with a Bible. The Adjustment Bureau challenged me in the same ways some of those films do but let me draw my own conclusions. It took me on a thrill ride of suspense and intrigue with a sci-fi twist to it but still challenged me to think about my own faith at the same time. The even better part of it was it is a film that non-Christians can find entertaining as well. A believer gets what they put into it; a non-believer the same. The only difference with this film is it is general enough to be seen by audiences of all beliefs and opens the door to conversation. I will take a conversation starting film any day over one that tries to spell out every bullet point of the Bible to people.
What the film really challenged me to do is take a look at past experiences and question if they were really “adjustments” as the film calls it or just chance. A lot of good has happened in my life and a lot of bad things have happened too. However, as I look back on how the bad things have effected me it usually makes me realize that without “x” I never would have had “Y” happen. My life plan was always supposed to have me end up with my wonderful wife and son. I was supposed to meet an overtly shy kid in college who had a greater passion for movies than I (we now all lovingly know this shy kid as “The Mike”) and eventually start sharing my own opinions on film with others. The list could go on and on. But the point is none of this would have happened if I hadn’t had life experiences that made me approach things differently. Without break-ups, lost friendships, hurtful words said by all parties involved and even the pain of learning I would never have the athletic ability I so wanted led me to where I am today. It’s a path that is filled with joy and embarrassment, pleasures, pain and sorrow. What is even scarier is the amount of things I will never know that were tiny “adjustments” to my life. For all I know a spilled cup of coffee could be free will clumsiness or God’s way of putting me on path to my career and meeting my wife. You just don’t know. That is why it is called faith.
As The Adjustment Bureau teaches us, the plan can always deviate and eventually may be able to be changed, but there is someone greater than us that is working hard to carry out the best for us and others around us. When they are good at their job we don’t even know they are there. Sometimes bad things happen to good people and when people chalk it up to part of God’s plan they are not totally wrong. There is a plan involved but sometimes these hardships are “adjustments” to our life and sometimes are just the consequences of ourselves or others trying to escape these adjustments; think of it as a “ripple” effect if you will.
As a film, The Adjustment Bureau would have been one of those films that were on my year end favorites list had I actually seen it in 2011. It takes a very heavy handed subject matter and condenses it into a very palatable serving size. You’re intrigued with the action and suspense and your brain gets engaged in the psychology of it all. It causes you to reflect on the way you view every day coincidence and will make you wonder if that next time you bend over to pick up a quarter off the sidewalk if it was to keep you from something bigger like walking in front of a bus, or keeping the girl of your dreams a mystery for just a bit longer. It’s a film that helps reassure the answers, but doesn’t give them to you.
In fact, the more I think about The Adjustment Bureau the more questions I have. It is a conversation piece and maybe even a podcast worthy piece some day. I encourage you to check it out. Perhaps it will lead you in a way that spiritually God wants you to go; perhaps you’re a non-believer who just wants to see a good flick with some Christian undertones that aren’t going to be beating you over the head with miraculous conversion scenes. Or perhaps it is a combo of both; that film that starts the dialogue between two friends of opposing beliefs. Regardless of how you view the film, I know in my case my experience with The Adjustment Bureau was not just random chance. I saw it as an “adjustment” to my life plan reminding me God does have a plan for everyone and even if we don’t like how we got from point A to point B, God is going to lead us to that end result regardless without us ever knowing it and giving him the thanks that he deserves.