Our church is having a youth event called ‘Disciple Now.’  It’s a time for young men and women, middle and high-school aged, to get together for worship and study, and be mentored for the weekend by a Christian college student.

So, since they all have to stay somewhere at night, we have some 15 middle-school aged boys in our house tonight.  Their mentor, a fine young pre-dental student named Denmark, is alternating between studying for Chemistry and trying to influence young hearts.  The boys are impressed by their mentor; he’s a wrestler, and carries himself with the kind of presence that boys understand.  He has the kind of dedication to faith and study that I understand.

Outside, in the dark, under a cold, starry South Carolina sky, the boys are playing ‘Bounty-Hunter.’  Some hide in the dark, others find them.  It’s much like hide and seek.  Heck, it is hide and seek.  But when you’re 12-14, Bounty Hunter sounds vastly cooler.  They have plans to play it with Air-soft guns one day; we have paint-ball guns now, but tonight is not the time for that.  Tonight is about being boys, running, laughing, challenging wits and physical stamina.

The dogs, initially a little disturbed by the mass of human testosterone, are now laughing and barking happily; no doubt certain that they’re part of the game.  No doubt, they’ll dream of the laughter of young men in their dog sleep, interrupted by the holy act of chasing rabbits or coyotes in the magical wee hours of the late winter night.

Faith, strength, courage, joy; I’m thrilled listening to them.  Torn between a desire to join them and the knowledge I have to leave them to their own games.  Torn between love of darkness and love of warmth as my body grows to love the fire more than the chill.

We recently watched Gladiator.  What a movie!  I am always stricken by what Maximus says to his officers,and they to him, before the opening battle in the forests of Germany, as Emperor Marcus Aurelius looks on:  ‘Strength and honor.’

Tonight is about that; young men learning strength and honor, faith and truth, love and hope, courage and community.  And doing it between the safety of a civilized house, and the uncertainty of the late-night yard and forest all around.

Strength and honor to you, my friends.  Our Emperor is watching us in the night.

Edwin

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