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Like the Oscar voters who named The King's Speech the best movie of 2010, I loved the movie (which just released to DVD) not just for its excellence, but for a particularly poignant reason: I am a stutterer. And I'm a pastor, which means my problem, like the king's, is often quite public.

I prefer "stutterer" to "stammerer" because of the onomatopoeic irony: the word sounds like the sound. It's a term fraught with consonant-rich pitfalls for those inflicted with the impediment. You can tell a lisper by how they "lithp." You can tell a stutterer by how they "st-st-stutter"—and sometimes that yields embarrassing and painful moments, especially for a child.

I remember in school when we were all required to read aloud. I cannot express the dread that would sit, knotted and grotesque, in the pit of my stomach as I waited for the death knell signifying my turn to read. Usually, I was mercifully given small parts, usually one sentence, but they grew all out of proportion in my mind, becoming the enemy. I would flip forward in my book, counting the pages till my part, inwardly pleading for the bell to ring—signifying the end of class and my reprieve from a fate worse than death. In one class, there was a boy who delighted in tormenting me because of my stutter and the ensuing facial contortions. His impersonations weren't that great, but still they were like a knife to my heart. One time he mocked me and, driven by irrepressible rage and impotent outrage, I punched him. The manliness of my just onslaught was somewhat offset by the fact that I was crying like a baby. But beggars can't be choosers. And even though I hit him, he got in trouble. For that instant, life was sweet. (Plus, girls thought my stutter was cute. ...

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The Pastor's Speech
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April 2011

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