We started North Creek Church with 20 children and 19 adults almost 12 years ago. As those children who are still at North Creek turn 18, I write a blog just to honor them. Happy Birthday to Adam Gray! Enjoy!
You are a wonderful man of God. A man with great depth, great strength, and great perseverance. Ironically, most people reading this letter would skim over those words quickly, but I wrote them with clear intention. I wrote them because I understand that the depth was carved from grief, the strength was carved from lonely times, and the perseverance was carved from patience in the midst of trials. Those traits should be held with great regard as they were bought with the highest price.
In Australian Aboriginal society, there is a thing called a walkabout that is a rite of passage for boys between the ages of 10 and 16. At some point during that time, the adolescent goes to live in the wilderness for about six months to make the spiritual and traditional transition into manhood. When I think back over your life, I feel like God allowed you to have a very defining time that was your walkabout. A time when you set off into the wilderness completely alone to come face to face with who you want to be, what you will stand for and whom you will serve. A time that you stepped into manhood both spiritually and traditionally.
Your mother and I spent many hours grieving over your wilderness journey…it wasn’t pretty! We questioned God often about why He allowed you to experience some of the things you did and why He wasn’t rescuing you from the challenges. It seemed from the outside looking in that God sent you to the wolves with a pocketknife. It was almost unbearable to submit our trust to God and let you navigate each challenge as it came the best way you could. We had dreamed a much different dream for our kids who helped start our church. We hoped for mountain top highs, not realizing that a mountain is only majestic because of the valleys…
But we were admittedly shortsighted in our worry. What I see now is the profound value that those days in the wilderness gave to you. It was there that you found that depth, strength, and perseverance that will carry you well through the rest of your life.
Adam, God spoke to my heart about you a very long time ago. As a boy, not even in elementary school, He told me you would set the church on fire. Not a literal fire (which at the time was the more believable option amongst your Sunday School teachers), but the figurative one where your unwavering will is a catalyst to inspire others. I have no doubt now that the very days we were most concerned for you will be the very days we look back on as the ones that molded and shaped you into an immovable force.
I am very proud of you. Not for being perfect or having it together through every challenge, but for going on a journey into the wilderness and making it out…not only alive, but as a man. I have no doubt you will continue this trajectory through the rest of your life. I also see now that you are armed with far more than a pocketknife. You carry a mighty sword with you and you have what it takes to conquer whatever may come.
I love you. It has been my highest honor to watch you grow up.