Monday, January 10, 2011

The King's Speech

I'm a professional communicator of sorts. A central part of my job as a pastor is standing up in front of people and sharing the truths of Scripture. Some call it "preaching" or "teaching." In any case, it's like giving a spiritual speech. I genuinely enjoy this aspect of my vocation. To my surprise, I kind of like speaking in front of people, sharing stories and asking questions and catching people's eyes as I drive a point home.

This wasn't always the case. One of my most embarrassing moments involves giving a horrendous presentation in my sophomore English class (I won't go into detail, but I'll say that it involved my voice cracking at inopportune times and the entire class laughing at me). I put off my freshman-level public speaking class until the final semester of my senior year. I've read somewhere that the fear of public speaking surpasses terrorism, illness, and even death. I was convinced that public speaking wasn't for me. God has a sense of humor about these things.

In The King's Speech, Prince Albert (Colin Firth) is fraught with similar fears of public speaking. Having an embarrassing stammer and constantly in the public eye, he and wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) have seen a myriad of speech therapists, to no avail. At the end of their rope, Elizabeth approaches an unorthodox Australian therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), to help Albert with his problem. What follows is a remarkable story of friendship as Lionel teaches Albert how to find his voice and ultimately lead a nation. An aesthetic period piece, and filled with some of the best performances of the past year, The King's Speech is a powerful and affecting tale of the redemptive power of relationship.

In a way, The King's Speech is a film about education. Logue's intriguing methodologies don't stem from medical credentials, social power, or an impressive resume. A failed actor, a social outcast--he is repeatedly described as an Australian in pejorative tones--and with a quirky personality, Logue is the least likely candidate for teaching a king. Yet teach he does, with warmth and patience and grace, entering in a relationship with Albert that moves beyond formal speech therapy and addresses issues of the heart. Over many years, Logue and Albert--or "Bertie," as Logue affectionately calls him--grow in their mutual trust and love. Logue is the best kind of teacher because his motives are pure; he isn't doing this for fame or fortune, but simply to see another human being flourish.

The word educate has a Latin root meaning "to lead out." In their paradoxical friendship, Logue leads Bertie to the heart of the issue beyond the burdensome stammer--his own fears, insecurities, and identity. Like many of our own outer quirks and foibles, the stammer is only an outer symptom of an interior wound of the heart. As the educator, Logue takes Bertie on a journey into his very soul. As they prepare for Bertie's commencement ceremony to become king, Logue takes a seat on Bertie's throne. Instantly angered, Bertie demands that Logue remove himself from the sacred chair. Stammering, Bertie demands, "l-l-listen to me...listen to me!"" Logue defiantly and calmly asks, "and why should I waste my time listening to you?" With an impassionated and stammer-free yelp, Bertie cries, "because I have a voice!" Logue quietly leans forward. "...Yes. You do."

In the world of ministry, we are called to help people find their voice. It is not enough to only address the stammers; we are to minister to the whole person and address deep issues of the heart. We are to fully enter into people's worlds, loving them in such a way that our stories become intertwined, woven together by a growing affection and trust. We are to give one another patience and grace as we work through our pains and find redemption in our Father. After he becomes king, Bertie--now King George--continues to invite Logue into his world, not because he is a good speech therapist, but because he is a close friend who wants to bring honor to the King. The king is one who communicates hope to an entire nation; Logue communicates hope to his friend. I want to be a communicator of hope, one who "leads out" those I shepherd as we journey towards Christ, entering in their story as a friend and co-pilgrim. Isn't that what discipleship truly is?


  1. Joel, I love reading your blogs. I appreciate how you take the lessons that life presents in its various forms, but particularly cinema, and you apply them to yourself and your ministry. And that you educate readers, in its truest meaning, as we journey with you.

  2. LOVE this post & loved the movie. Great insight - thanks for sharing : )

  3. I like the speaking/teaching aspect of my job as well.