I don’t recall that I ever watched The West Wing television program when it was on. That’s not a spiritual statement, it’s just kind of a schedule-reality statement. We try to use our finite allotted hours more productively. I admit I have read about the program, though, deemed by some to be one of the greatest television drama series ever produced. It ran 154 episodes from 1999 to 2006.
Allegedly set in the west wing of the White House, it’s less about politics than it is about the internal maneuverings within the White House staff. I understand it got pretty real – and pretty raw – in places. Closely akin to a reality show, maybe.
One of the dynamics the producers developed was between the President (named Josiah Bartlett in the series) and his speech writer, Sam Seaborn. Students of the show see Sam in the background in virtually every scene. He is listening. He is watching. His character is tasked with helping portray the President accurately any time he is called on to make a public statement so Sam is driven to immerse himself in who President Bartlett is.
At first it’s a bit ragged, but as time goes on Seaborn comes to understand the President better. He notices the way he speaks, the key points the President wants to get across, even the terminology he may use. It comes to the place where the President can assign a speech on virtually any topic and Seaborn can capture his perspective precisely.
In one memorable scene the President is addressing the National Dairy Farmers Association and after a moving and positive statement about their collective value to the health of Americans the dairymen break into thunderous applause. Pleased, the President makes eye contact with his speech writer and gives him an obvious wink, as if to say, You nailed it!
Now I apologize for stating the obvious but I cannot escape the dramatic impact of that story. Our goal, yours and mine, is to rightly represent the One we work for. To accurately portray His heart every time we have the opportunity. To faithfully represent Him in our words, our actions, our attitudes, our relationships. Tall order.
But then we discover what Sam Seaborn discovered, that we are “driven to immerse” ourselves in who God is. We talk with Him often. We listen carefully. We watch Him at work. Over and over we read His story. We watch in awe His amazing choreography going on all around us. And that consistent immersion changes us. Does God wink? I’m not sure. But I know He smiles.
By Don Jacobsen