Today, Monica and I had the chance to see The King's Speech. The story centers around the real life relationship between King George VI of Britain, who came to be the King shortly before the outbreak of World War II, and suffered from a speech impediment. To deal with it, his wife insists on him going to see a speech therapist named Lionel Logue, who helps him to see that his impediment is just a symptom - a symptom of his own fears, fears that he must overcome if he is going to speak to and for the people in a time of great uncertainty.
The movie culminates in the king delivering a speech to the nation as they entered into war with Germany, and what really struck me was the camera cutting to all kinds of people all over listening in - factory workers, royalty, soldiers, the "average joes," and everyone in between. The movie is about a man facing his fears and finding his voice, and as a follower of Jesus entrusted with a message to be proclaimed, the movie stirred up several thoughts in me about learning to speak well. Here's my gleanings:
TO SPEAK WELL, WE MUST KNOW THAT THE SPEAKER'S POWER IS NOT IN HIMSELF, BUT IN HIS MESSAGE. As a king in the 20th century, he didn't have to power to form a government or levy a tax, but the people looked to him for hope in dark times, for comfort in chaos and truth in the midst of propaganda. He his power was not in himself, but in his message. As ambassadors bearing the message of reconciliation, power does not rest in our ability, but in the message we proclaim. If we are going to bring true hope, peace, and truth to hurting people in dark times, we must realize this truth as well.
TO SPEAK WELL, WE NEED TO KNOW THE PEOPLE THAT WE ARE SPEAKING TO. Over the course of his friendship with Lionel, the king confesses that he has no relationship at all with the "common man" whom he supposedly represents. If we are to speak well, we cannot be in love more with being heard, being recognized than loving those who are hearing us! Divorced from this relationship, our words become about bringing attention to us, and not bringing hope to others. Do I really love the people that I'm speaking to? What are their needs? How can my love, expressed through words of truth, be used by God to meet those needs? These are the questions we need to ask.
TO SPEAK WELL, WE NEED TO OVERCOME OUR FEAR. This is the real obstacle that Lionel helps the king to see in his own life - he is terrified of being the king, of being inadequate, of being someone charged with speaking for the people that can't say a thing! It is only when he sees that he has nothing to be afraid of that he finds his voice. In the final scene of the movie, as the king is preparing to give his speech, he is locked away in the sound booth with Lionel - it is just the king, Lionel, and the microphone. And just before the broadcast goes live, after everything else has been said, Lionel says, "say it as if you're saying it just to me." As ambassadors of the Gospel, these words are what we need to chase away our fear - the fear of what other people will think, the fear of being inadeqaute, the fear of failure. The God of the universe says to you and to me, "Say it as if you're saying it just to me." It is for His sake that we open our mouths at all, so it should be for an audience of One that we proclaim faithfully, with boldness, winsomeness, courage, and clarity, the message which He has entrusted to us.
See you soon!
"Moses said to the LORD, 'Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.' The LORD said to him, 'Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.'" (Exodus 4:10-12)