Friday, February 26, 2016

Asking Myself: What is the meaning of the Trinity?

This is the eighth installment of my series "Asking Myself," in which I weekly ponder one question posed in Teresa Blythe's rich book, 50 Ways to Pray. You can find the start of the series here and last week's post here.

Q: What is the meaning of the Trinity?

This is one of the questions that I prayed over last year, so I decided to cheat and look back at my journal entry at the time. My original response attempted to tackle some of the doctrine-- you know, God exists as three distinct but eternally coexisting and coinherent Persons. Three yet One.

But this time around I realized that the question isn't simply what is the Trinity, but what is the meaning of it? Why is God a Triune Being, and what are the implications for us?

So first, I want to paint my big picture, my "forest" vision of what the Trinity means, to me. God is three yet one, an intimate community. There's fellowship bound up in the very fibers of God. Could I say even friendship? Yes. I think I will. The Trinity means God is friendly. God is intimate. God loves conversation and cooperation and communion.

If God wants to bring us into Himself, and if we desire to be found in Him like Paul did, then He also wants to bring believers into community— with Himself and with others who are in Him.

And to look more deeply at this community, I look to how the three Persons of the Trinity interact.

Let Us make man in Our image and in Our likeness.
It seems the Trinity converses and dreams and conspires or deliberates ...together. What does that mean for us, if we're made in the image and likeness of God? Is mankind, corporately, in God's communal image? Is that why we desire to belong, to connect with others? Or could every individual human also have some aspect of community within?

I was about to write that individuals don't usually converse with themselves unless they are mentally ill... and then it hit me that I do this pretty much all day long. :)  If Why-Cast-Down-My-Soul David could do it, so can I. But I digress.

My next wandering probes more deeply into the individual trees.


Why these three? What does each descriptor mean? Descriptor isn't the right word. The Trinity does not mean God is a divine Swiss Army knife. Let me try again: What meanings do each of the three names, or aspects of the Trinity lend to our understanding of God?

God is Father. Sometimes He's likened to a mother too. So let's just say that God is first described as a parent. Creation came out of Him. We were born, the first time around, through Him. Knit together in our mothers' wombs. Known before the foundation of the world.

He's so much more than an author, architect, builder, designer or tinkerer. Our Creator God is a loving Abba Father. He's concerned with, consumed by, intimately connected to, head-over-heels for His babies. Standing at the door to watch, hugging and kissing necks, throwing a big party, sparing no expense. Hovering, brooding, wing-warming, nursing, protecting like a mama. Instructing, encouraging and destiny-dreaming for her children like Lady Wisdom.

God is also Son, Jesus. He's wise beyond His years, yet oh so humble. With dirt under His nails, He's generous, approachable, compassionate. He's surprising, yet so, so human.

A Son. A good son to his Father and to his doting, possibly prematurely widowed Jewish mama.

He's Jesus, a boy learning in the temple, well-versed and literary, yet home-spun and hands-on, cooking breakfast on the beach for his scruffy fishermen friends. He's at the well, accessible and affirming to despised and downtrodden women. He's spending the night with friends, but welcoming to Nicodemus, seeking, sneaking through the shadows. He's other-worldly, retreating to the mountain, to the sea, to the midnight garden. He offers joy unspeakable, a second birth, and drink for unquenchable thirsts.

He prays. And we see a visionary longing we'd be one as the Trinity is one. And we see a Man full of sorrows. And we see someone on the cross, compassion gasped out with his dying breath.

Because of Jesus, the Trinity means God looks (to me) simultaneously more down-to-earth yet more profoundly divine in His virtue than the narrow, flat portrait of Jehovah directing battles and escapes and dreams in the Old Testament.

God is also Spirit. As such, He's ephemeral, gentle, hovering over the waters, fluttering down like a dove. He's a gentle breeze and a whisper.

Yet Spirit also means He's a dynamo! Filling the house, rattling the windows, bursting forth in flames, in languages, in healing, in power. Because of the Spirit, the Trinity means God looks even more mysterious, yet draws us even more near and enfolds us ever more dearly to Him.

All of these beautiful facets of our Triune God are sparkling in the warm glow of communion and community. Though some of God's diverse and nuanced attributes might almost seem contradictory, rather than vying for preeminence, the three Persons of the Trinity get along so well!  Not only is the Trinity a happy community, but He beckons us in. He bids us to experience the eternal community, godly friendship and divine many-yet-oneness that He is and we were made to reflect.

Next week's question is a doozy: What is the role of evil in a world created by God?

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