Like many stories about us, it all kind of started as a joke. It was a typical Sunday morning at church and we were doing the usual messing around in between services. We were done being seniors in high school and were enjoying the last few days of Summer. On this day we conversed with our Sunday school teacher, Ben, as he indulged in our nonsense. This was somewhere around the time we were transitioning from calling him Ben-Dover to Ben-gaged to just Ben (because now he was married).
I forget what lead to it, but Ben just started grabbing each of our arms and saying “strength and honor” in a deep raspy voice. Of course, a couple of us caught his reference to the beginning of the movie, Gladiator.
We chuckled and played along with Ben, trying to do our own impression of Russell Crowe’s voice. For various reasons, this stuck in our minds.
Later, on one of our last hangouts at Stu’s house before college, we were getting ready to go our separate ways, when, instead of saying “goodbye”, I extended my hand and said:
“Hey, Strength and Honor…”
There was a small pause as we all looked at each other with smirks on our faces.
“Yeah.. Strength and Honor..”, Matt said.
And so, it became it our thing.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Matt, Stu, Caleb, Marty and I went to schools that were still pretty close to home. So it was very common for all of us to be at church together on a given Sunday. After a week of school, homework, projects and tests, it was a joy to see one another again.
“Strength and Honor”
It was a greeting, a goodbye, an exhortation. It kind of encompassed it all as we said it and made eye contact. Eye contact that was akin to heading off to another battle (ie. another week of school). Though it was just jokes, it felt very brotherly and real. It was pretty cool.
We were college freshmen when this all began and it carried on until we were juniors. Not so much because we grew out of it, but probably more so because we each started to spend more weekends on our respective campuses. We enjoyed the novelty of it so much that it actually inspired the College Winter Retreat theme for one of the years I was the director.
“Strength and Honor: when Beauty and Religion just don’t cut it..”
Again, this was our thing. So of course we wouldn’t acknowledge Jackie when she extended her hand for it. She parodied it with my sister and the rest of their friends by making up their own, “beauty and religion”. Hence, the tagline for the winter retreat theme.
I kind of miss those days where we used it so liberally.