A Journey Marked By His Grace


Growing up I had a Sunday School teacher that was quite fond of reminding us that we were all a work in progress. While I can’t absolutely prove it I’m pretty sure she had a song that went a long with this concept.

I really wish spiritual transformation wasn’t such a process. I’m tired of making the same mistakes over and over. I’m done with being lured in by the same temptations.

The other day my oldest son, Jett, chose to make a few decisions that were less than smart. He had once again been caught directly, and in my opinion, purposefully disobeying something we had engaged in lengthy conversations about.

I was right to be upset and disappointed in his decisions, but my reaction was equally as devastating. I responded in anger saying things to him in a tone and spirit that were quite hurtful. Plain and simple I had lost my temper with him.

About 15 minutes later I sat there on the edge of his bed. With his face buried in his pillow crying, I asked him to forgive me for the way I had responded to him.

I couldn’t help but feel defeated. This wasn’t the first time I’ve had to ask him to forgive me for losing my temper with him. Shouldn’t this be something I have control over by now? Shouldn’t I be mature enough to control my emotions? Why do I have to continue to hurt the people around me that I care so much about with my sin?

I’m in no way making excuses for my behavior but, I’m learning that you can’t microwave spiritual formation. We want the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and faithfulness to be evident tomorrow. But I think there is a reason that Jesus likens our spiritual growth to trees (Jesus said, ‘I am the vine and you are the branches’). Because it’s a process and sometimes a slow one.

But this is the incredible beauty that God has called us to. It’s not a flawless process but a journey marked by His grace. It’s not a stale existence characterized by a mindless existence simply waiting for eternity. Not even close. We’ve been invited to connect with God each and every day as He brings about this incredible transforming process in our lives right in the midst of this beautifully broken world.

38 Responses to “A Journey Marked By His Grace”

  1. Sara says:

    Awesome word Pete. It was something I was dwelling on as well this morning during my prayer time, and most of yesterday as well…I think the term is “meek” :) I think we, as believers, grow weary in our longing to be made perfect on this side of eternity. That longing often starves out our appetite for living…morphing how we view ourselves into the lie the flesh gives us, rather than the way God sees us, as His work in progress.

  2. jason says:

    Makes you wonder why Jesus sometimes called him Simon and sometimes called him Peter.

    My Children get me every time, too.

    Its tough, but realizing it, we know that we are growing, and that the Father is working on us.

    I’m with you, I wish He would hurry up! One thing thing that holds true about God (with me anyway) He sure does has a slow stride.

  3. Michael says:

    Okay man, I recently did the same thing to Ethan. He had done something that really irked me and I reacted like a jerk. It wasn’t a spirit led reaction at all.
    And like you said, spiritual growth is a process. It takes time for sure.

  4. Heidi H. says:

    Been guilty of the same thing recently. Brought to mind this song we used to sing in Sunday School growing up. :)

    He’s still working on me
    To make me what I need to be
    It took him just a week to make the moon and stars
    The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars
    How loving and patient He must be
    ‘Cause He’s still workin’ on me

    There really ought to be a sign upon my heart
    Don’t judge him yet, there’s an unfinished part
    But I’ll be better just according to His plan
    Fashioned by the Master’s loving hands

  5. Heidi says:

    I swear that you have been reading pages out of my spiral notebook. This last week I had a similar action that proved a similar reaction, but, I so wanted them to hear me; is all I could say through my anger… I am right you are wrong… hear me!?!! What I wasn’t hearing was the silence and the crying of another situation that provoked them of their actions. When I went back and asked forgiveness like you did; God graciously opened a new page of communication with them. We both talked and we both listened. Grace happened.

  6. Jill says:

    I love the path in the picture you put with this blog, even though I hate the spiritual path that I must walk.

    I have gotten a lot better at controlling my responses to my kids and with apoligizing when I lose it. I do also fear that in apologizing they will believe that the original rebuke wasn’t warranted. I guess that’s one of the best reasons for not losing it; I want the power of my rebuke to be loving and effective.

  7. Craig Smith says:

    I am with you on this one. No one would expect a tree to grow overnight but we expect spiritual results overnight. I have had to ask my 11 year old for forgiveness too. I hate hurting my son. He is so quick to forgive. A big thing for me is not getting stuck in that moment. That “I’ve messed up and I’m a terrible dad” moment. It feels like quicksand sometimes. But I have to accept God’s (and my son’s) grace and forgiveness…and then move on. Thanks for your honesty Pete.

  8. Cindy says:

    Wow, what a gift God is giving your son. He gets to see firsthand that the life we’re called to is ‘a journey marked by grace’. And he gets to experience that grace in so many ways – from God, from you as a parent, and also in the opportunity to extend it in your direction himself.

    Plus, he gets to hear you say “I’m sorry”. Something many parents have never said to their kids. He’s learning how to own his mistakes through watching you. Learning how to say those 2 hardest-ever-to-choke-out words.

    I have way more of these days than I’d ever admit to anyone. I just feel so….human. I’m beyond grateful for God’s love, forgiveness, and persistence. The fact that I’m worth being worked on. Although some days it feels more like ‘worked over’.

  9. Allison Roberts says:

    “I really wish spiritual transformation wasn’t such a process. I’m tired of making the same mistakes over and over. I’m done with being lured in by the same temptations.”

    Gosh.. ME TOO!

    • ash says:

      me too! but my heart’s stubborn, and i need my over-and-over-again mistakes to remind me how much i need Him.

  10. I think it speaks volumes of your love for your children and of Jesus to have asked Jett to extend grace to you. How many parents don’t do that? You not only showed him respect, but you taught him a valuable lesson he will be able to take with him through life. And personally, I think it helps when a child makes mistakes and they can see that their parents make them too. Not such a tough world that way.

  11. Love this. It’s a messy process in my life… a messy and lengthy process. I must remain. As you said last night on your CrossPoint Live interview – we have to REMAIN in Christ consistently. Thanks Pete!

  12. Thank you so much for this great reminder. And I’m glad you found something to write about…as did I :)

  13. Mela Kamin says:

    I appreciate that the blogs I decide to visit, the links I choose to click on, are often those that are speaking to a heart issue of my own. This is a big one. I’m the quick to anger type and my arms are often full of the grudges I decide to hold. I feel like I’m always going over the same issues with my kids – “can’t they just listen, haven’t we gone over this a thousand times, etc.?” And, what I realize is that God might be using these trials to move ME in His direction, to shape me into a more patient, grace-giving, selfless parent. Oh, it’s hard. I pray to be able to recognize it more quickly each time and pour out grace instead of vinegar.

  14. Lisa Syler says:

    Thank-you for being real…for being transparent and honest…for leading us all down the right way to parent~ that is, as Jesus would have us: trying our best, messing up at times, asking forgiveness, and going right on being a parent who loves desperately! Proud of you and Brandi! Love you both,


    • Karla says:

      Pete, my dad reacted to me and my brother in anger/frustration all the time growing up and I don’t think I ever heard the word “sorry” cross his lips. I truly believe it would have made all the difference if he had though. A parent being able to humble themselves before their children and admit they are imperfect and in need of God’s grace as much as anyone else speaks volumes to a child. Even now if he does something hurtful I never get an apology and it hurts me unbelievably. I find myself reacting in similar ways to my own family sometimes (though thankfully not nearly like my father) and they always get an apology. And I am continually letting God change me and shape me more like him and I know it is happening- just ever so slowly and we must remember the work will not be complete until we are with Him in heaven.

  15. Greg M says:

    I am also disappointed in myself when I make the same unhealthy decisions that tend to hurt me and others. I don’t remember that God has ever apologized to me for losing His temper at me. I know He constantly gets upset at me for some of my decisions, rightfully so. If He was inconsistent in His disciplining me or backed off from what He says, then He would not be the Loving Father He is. My guess is that you will continue to be the loving father to your boys, sometimes painful and God will do the same for you

  16. Kelly says:

    Glad I am not the only parent that struggles in this way. Just yesterday morning, I “lost it” on my kids for acting inappropriately. As you said, my being upset about the behavior was correct—my yelling and anger was not. Like you, I AGAIN asked for forgiveness for my grumpiness—and AGAIN they happily forgave me. I have really learned alot about forgiving and forgetting from my kids–they are much better at it than I am. I am 37, and they are 5 and 3—and, there are times they are more mature than me. : )

  17. Melanie says:

    One of my favorite passages speaks about this concept of being in process. I even have the word PROCESS written in the margin next to this passage. (capitals are mine)

    2 Peter 1:3-8
    “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
    For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities IN INCREASING MEASURE, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

    I love that we don’t have to be perfect yet… just moving forward in our process of becoming Christlike. I always ask myself if my character is still in process. I don’t want to get stuck looking back at failure and I don’t want to just rest where I am. I want to be in process! :-)

  18. Michelle says:

    Thank you! I needed to hear that today. Sometimes it’s so defeating. I am often dumbfounded at how quickly I can come undone with my family.

  19. judy says:

    “We are a work in progress “I guess that’s the reason I can feel so squeezed sometimes. At this stage in my life I am trying to think how can I stop my reaction for a better outcome, slow it down (in my mind) because it can be so complex. I understand the dance of reacting and having to say sorry, been there, done that and still working on it. Honesty and saying sorry is a big thing to me. There are alot of people who have wanted to hear that from a parent, it would make such an impact. I like the invite to connect with God each and every day and expect that He is going to transform us in the midst of this journey we call life, in a beautiful broken world. Such inspiring words, makes me want more……I heard this the other day and am still pondering it ” grace is free but it cost us our lives”

  20. Jason says:

    Pete, this is what makes you an awesome pastor. You don’t hide your flaws…you show them and show how you learned from them so that people God’s called to sit under you can learn and do the same thing. Thanks.

  21. IMHO Pete: the most beautiful part is not whether you gain control of your temper or not. It is the fact that you asked Jett to forgive you for losing it. I see my whole life as a work in progress and hopefully will until I am called Home. If everything is to be under control with time, what about alcoholics, or smoking or porn, or cussing? Aren’t some of those lifetime battles?

  22. I relate all to well with this. I think our kids frustrate us so much because we are working so hard to teach them well…and every time they mess up, especially blatantly, we tend to want to kick ourselves….as if we haven’t done enough “good parenting”. Unfortunately, I can lose my temper too, especially with my 6 year old….he has a wee bit of a defiant spirit at times, which I seem to have little tolerance for.

    But the good…the really GREAT news….(aside from God’s grace and mercy on us)….is that every time you apologize to your child, you are making a lasting impression. Sure, I know you (and I) would rather it not have to get that far….but when we owe it to them and we give it to them….we are in turn teaching them that “nobody is perfect” and that apologizing is healing and healthy. Who else is going to teach our children about humility, error, and repentence if not us? In this regard, they need to see us make a few mistakes….and I think this is part of God’s brilliance. It works out for His good….even if it hurts along the way. The tragedy is only when nothing is learned.

  23. Mary says:

    There was a Christian song of old entitled, Kids Under Construction probably written 28 years ago. And that follows along with the theme for spiritual formation. So you are right there was a song to go with that. Spiritual formation is a lifelong process in which we are invited to journey with Christ so that we may be transformed into His image…He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it…

  24. Ian says:

    Once again, appreciate your transparency and vulnerability Pete.

  25. Kay Jackson says:

    Pete. This is Lindsey’s mom. As young mother I had a very wise Sunday school teacher. She taught us that patience is learned by being tried. Your lesson was also learning patience. Children are very good at teaching us lessons also

  26. Lisa says:

    Great transparency and vulnerability Pete, it is what makes a good pastor. Half the battle is recognizing our weaknesses. It is those who go without recognizing or admitting them that I pray for all the time.

    P.S. I think kids sometimes bring out the worst in us. As a teacher I struggle with this all the time. Sometimes it takes kids multiple failures to learn a lesson or multiple times of pushing the limit to know you won’t back down:)

  27. lindy abbott says:

    Pete, as always… your heart sharing touches places in my life that I can relate. All two well, I have hurt the people I love most deeply with my words or tone… and find myself apologizing and wondering when will I ever grow up in Jesus. Now my oldest is 17 years old(18 in a month), I have never mastered parenting… I am a lot better than when I started, and that is my only hope… that my children will see that God must be real because they have seen right in front of their face a work in progress… a very slow work in progress, but nonetheless more Christlike than years previously.

  28. Sherie says:

    Deep down, I think we want to be like Chinese Bamboo. For five years the bamboo barely grows above a few inches. It appears that nothing is happening, but what is really occurring is that the roots are growing. After five years it may grow 80 feet in one season. We are willing to give it a little time to learn and grow, but then we want that enormous growth and development. We want to be strong, tall, and mature, but that only can happen if there are roots that run very deep to support it. My five years came and went a long time ago, I’m still working on the roots and the growth but the Lord is very patient!

  29. gitz says:

    i talked about this topic with a friend this afternoon. she was driving home from work and said all day she prayed, “God, don’t let me die today before seeing my boys again, because how I was with them this morning is not how I want them to remember me.”

    I thought that was a pretty real way of looking at it… I told her that she was human and it’s ok to not have it right all the time, but i so felt her point. it’s how i should look at every interaction i have, and i don’t all the time.

  30. Rod says:

    Grace= Failure is not final

  31. Marni Arnold says:

    “I’m learning that you can’t microwave spiritual formation.”

    This nails grace down pretty well, Pete.

    God has been really teaching me a whole mess load on grace lately…because one area I deeply struggle with is anger. It is rooted from the shame-based messages I recieved when I was much younger…and thankfully through the right counsel that I have now, and the persistent attitude I have to seek after His answers on how to address my anger and shame, I am discovering His grace unlike any other time in my life. I won’t ever come to complete understanding of it…none of us ever will in this life…but I am gathering that grace isn’t given in microwave, fast-food moments. Grace happens…period. It is always there…and it reveals itself in moments when your child looks at you with the tears in thier eyes and says, “I forgive you” just one more time.

    Christ reminds us to forgive our brethren not just 7 times…but 7 x 70. That’s a whole lot of forgiveness…and His grace and forgiveness for us goes beyond 490 times! That is just astounding news and truth…and it is hard to grasp in our sin, but that’s the point of grace. It loves and forgives even when we feel we don’t deserve it. What a miracle…because it confounds me too when I ponder it. I suppose that is why He calls us into child-like faith in trusting Him…because our linear, logical minds just can’t ever fully grasp Him. He is amazing…and how He works miracles of His grace and love through our kids! Wow!

  32. Meg E. says:

    Pete, I want to add my voice to those who already spoke about the amazing gift you are giving your sons by saying the words “I’m sorry” when you stumble like any normal parent does. I’m one of those adults who NEVER heard my parents ever tell me they were sorry for anything they did or said to when during my childhood (which was an abusive one). To this very day my mother will not admit when she has treated me badly and I have to believe that is rooted in fear and insecurity (and perhaps really not feeling sorry for her behavior).

    Because repentance and asking for forgiveness were never modeled for me, I grew up to repeat the same pattern of refusing to apologize when I hurt people in my life. It probably wasn’t until I had my three sons that I realized I had to break the awful cycle. My sons are 5 1/2, 4, and 2 1/2 and I’ve said “I’m sorry” to them for blowing it more times than I care to admit. But I am committed to showing my sons that while I’m not a perfect mother, I love their hearts and when I hurt their hearts I tell them that I am sorry for doing so.

    It’s clear you love your sons’ hearts. Otherwise, your own heart wouldn’t break so much when you feel like you’ve missed the mark as a dad. But trust me, you ARE hitting the mark even if you don’t see it. Never forget that God chose you to be your sons’ dad and that means that you are the best dad for them.

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