If you’ve been a regular listener around here you may recall a few episodes back in episode 32, I talked about how we were made for relationships. And one characteristic of a fulfilling and life-giving relationships is that it has an element of transcendence to it. I’ll have a link to that episode in the show notes for any new listeners who want to check it out.

Transcendence, as I mentioned in episode 32, is about rising above our limits or normal ways of doing things. It’s about going beyond our natural inclination to be self-centered, rather than other-centered. It’s to stretch ourselves relationally.

If you wonder what transcendence looks like in a relationship, and want to know how to make more of your relationships transcendent, stay tuned . I’ll explain and give you an example in a story I was involved with recently.

It’s a story centered around a lawn mower.My story starts with how for the past several years my twin grandsons, Grant and George earn money by mowing our lawn.

  • For a long time now they’ve commented how they like using my lawn mower so much better than their dad’s they use at home to cut their own grass.
  • It all came to a head recently when they went into a great deal of detail about the sorry state of their dad’s lawn mower. “It’s hard to start. There are parts that keep falling out it it. It slows down unexpectedly, so you have to wait until it revs up to the normal speed, and it takes FOREVER to finishing cutting the grass.”
  • Their parents were out of town and I suggested we surprise them and take it in for repair, “It probably just needs a few adjustments. Maybe use some Windex like the father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
  • They and their mother said “NO!” They’ve had it for over 10 years and taken it in multiple times for repair. The mower had served them well over the years, but it was time to get a new mower.Key phrase from the boys,

“What’s Dad going to do when we’re off to college next year and he’s going to have to mow the lawn himself? This mower is totally unreliable.”  I’ll come back to this in a minute.

They had been looking at new mowers, and Michael found one he liked, but it was little beyond what Hope said they could pay. We put our heads together, and each of the boys kicked in some money, so did Janet and I, and Hope agreed to pay the rest.

  • Decided to do it as a birthday gift.If you are listening to today’s episode in real time, it’s September 25th, my/our son’s birthday. September 25, this very day.
  • But the mower purchase couldn’t wait, so we all decided to get it and give it too him 3 weeks before his birthday. The need was that great.
  • The point of this story, and what touches me about it, is when they said

What’s Dad going to do when we’re off to college next year and he’s going to have to mow the lawn himself?

Here’s what gripped me about what they said:

  • We need to fix this problem now, so dad won’t have to deal with this when we’re gone. We’re worried about him having to use this piece o junk
  • The anxiety was palpable. The concern genuine.These were 17-year olds thinking like this, so beyond themselves. Thinking about the future and what their absence will mean to their father in this one area.
  • This is what a transcendent relationship looks like.

When I was 17 and thinking about leaving home for college, the last thing on my mind was who was going to mow the lawn that I used to cut, and who else was going to pick up the slack for my absence and availability for household chores?

How did the boys come to think like this? To think about the needs of another person? This isn’t normal 17-year-old male behavior. This is transcendent relating.

They take care of me, too. I always have the sense they are looking out for me. The come over after Thanksgiving to haul up from the basement our Christmas tree, and then take it down after News Years

They help Janet decorate the tree, knowing it’s not her favorite thing in the world.

How did they get like this? How did they get to be so abnormal?

I first saw it when we’d take them to grade school once a week, and how when they got to the front door entrance, they would hold the door open for teachers or other adults right behind them.

The boys were demonstrating Level 4 relationship skills – Unconscious competence that was the topic of episode 14, Relationship Skills – Level 4. There will be link to the show notes for this episode

What kid does this kind of thing? How did they get like this?

Their parents modeled for them the behaviors I described

They were prayed over by their parents and grandparents. Mention the prayer card developed with their photos and one of their cousins on it. One prayer for each of the 31 days in a month. Here’s the prayer for today, the 25th of the month, for example:

Please enable our grandchildren to choose friends of good character and so be blessed.

It’s part of their value system.

  • To think about the needs of others. Family is important. Honoring one’s parent.
  • Anticipate a problem and look for a solution now, while it’s a little problem before it turns into a big problem
  • To anticipate the needs of another, without asking, “what do you need?’

They got lucky. Other parents I know did all of these things and their kids turned out the opposite of my grandkids. This isn’t a parenting prescription. But it is descriptive of what a transcendent relationship looks like.


Janet and I took the boys to buy the mower, put it in our car, and deliver it to our son, 3 weeks before his birthday. He was so happy and his happiness spilled over onto us. Our joy came not from the mower, but from seeing what a home run it was with our son as the recipient, and seeing the joy in the boys and hope in being the gift giver.

If two 17-year-old teenagers can think and care about people like the boys did, I can too. And so can you.

In just thinking about the future need of their dad, it brought out the best in the boys. It can work the same for me when I anticipate the needs of others.  And it can work in the same way for you, too.

It doesn’t always happen, but every now and then there is real joy in doing things for other people, even when it’s unexpected, as it was when we all chipped in to buy the new lawn mower for Michael.

We can be a positive influence on the people who are watching us. Like the boys are with Eleanor. More people are watching us than we realize.

Before I close, here’s the he main take-away from today’s episode, our show in a sentence

There is joy to be found when we reflect the transcendent character of God by going beyond and outside of ourselves to anticipate the needs of another, and then do what we can to help meet that need.

Here’s something you can do in response to today’s show. Here’s a quick win for you.

Pray that God would bring to your mind someone with a need, and what role he wants you to play in meeting that need. And to do so in a manner that goes above and beyond what your natural tendency would be. If you hate using the telephone, who could you call today? If it feels like prying when you ask hurting people how they are doing, push the envelope and ask anyway. If you like getting together with people at a restaurant, invite them to your house instead.

Let me know how that works for you, especially when you experience the joy of going beyond your normal inclination.


Before I leave you with our relationship quote of the week, I want to thank you for joining us today in this faith community of people who care about transforming their relationships into the best they can be. Who care about showing the world the character of Jesus through our relationships. I’m so glad you are one of us.

You can help us spread the word about what we are doing by leaving a review in iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. And while you’re at it, please subscribe to our podcast there so you don’t miss any episode when they come out each week.

Above all, always remember what you were made for. You were made for THIS. Relationships that: Transcend our natural inclination to focus on self, in ways that give us a glimpse of what God is like. That Honors others as we bring out the best in people, where we Initiate with others instead of waiting for them to initiate with us, and where we Selflessly serve those God has placed in our path. We were made for T.H.I.S.

Relationship Quote of the Week

We are so instinctively and profoundly self-centered that we don’t think we are. ~ Tim Keller

That’s all for today. See you next week. Bye for now.

Resources mentioned in today’s show

Episode 32 – What Am I Here for? What is My Purpose in Life?

Episode 14 – Relationship Skills – Level 4