The Christian doctrine of the Trinity is one of the most precious and vital truths we know about God. God exists as three persons, yet one God. This is truly a mystery that has both captured and mystified people for thousands of years and is one of the true tests of orthodoxy, i.e. the bare minimum of being a Christian.
On one hand, the Trinity can exist in academic conversations where we fine-tune our understanding of it or tweak others. We study the Bible, commentaries and creeds to better explain how one God can eternally exist in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. On the other hand, the Trinity is uniquely formative in how we learn to relate to everyone and everything.
Why? Because the three members of the Trinity aren’t unfamiliar to our dynamic of attachment but represent themselves as a Father, Brother and Comforter. God is our Father, Jesus our older Brother and Spirit our true Comforter. See where this is going? Anyone struggle with the concept of a father, older sibling or lack of a comforter growing up?
Even the best parents will someday have to reckon with their towering failures that have shaped their children. Every dad will sit down and dwell on the choices they made and how much was about them and not others. Every mom will spend years reflecting on their words and how much was about protecting an image and not nurturing love.
But in spite of popular psychology, your family of origin isn’t the only means of shaping attachment and trust and peace of mind. There is a true and better Father who has predestined and sought you through the ages and made himself known in the giving up of what is most precious to him; his Son.
Jesus is not only known as our friend and Lord but older brother. And this distinction is key as many have, or are, an older sibling and know how broken this idea is. To attribute to the King a title which has been tarnished through pain or abuse or darkness is hard. A lot of us would prefer to ignore his role as brother but to do so is to lose means of redeeming lost years.
How? When Jesus walked among us he showed what true brotherhood was in the lack of transactional relationships and coping mechanisms that use others rather than protect them. The Son of Man came to hold, celebrate, correct and protect his younger brothers and sisters. He came to reconcile heaven and earth and paid the ultimate price to bring God’s presence and Spirit to us.
The Holy Spirit is called many things, but as a member of the Trinity he is known foremost as the Comforter. Before he brings tongues and signs and conviction, he brings life and a presence that restores the communion broken in the Garden of Eden. He brings the very salvation Jesus died to achieve and the presence of the Triune God into our hearts.
A lot of us longed for comfort growing up (and still do) hoping someone would just hold us. So many times we received the cold reality of isolation rather than the warmth that could turn everything around. We’ve always sought this Comforter in our families and friends and addictions, but in the end, end up alone.
And this loneliness is perhaps the greatest physical testament to the truth of the Trinity as we know we were always made for a community. We know there exists someone who can hold us, protect us and define us in a way our family never could. In other words, God is a family in and of himself and in this Trinity is a communion that will meet every need.
Orthodoxy is key in all belief because if we change God we lose God. But perhaps it’s no more important than the holy dance we call the Trinity, of a Father and Brother and Comforter who eternally exist in three persons yet one God. And this dance beckons to us, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters who know we were made for more than the brokenness of our past but the beauty of a future and family that can truly heal and hold us.