Sometimes when I go shopping, I have Nora help me find what I need from my list. For example, I will tell her to find the tortillas, milk or butter. The produce section is a great place to do this, because once she finds the item, we get to count it, bag it and sometimes even weigh it. It may not sound like a blast to you, but to Nora, it is a great way to spend an afternoon.
Once, I told her the next item on our list was a zucchini. Unsure as to what that was, she asked for more information. I told her it was green and looked a lot like a cucumber. She couldn't find it. "Can we just get a cucumber instead?" she asked. After explaining that a zucchini was better to cook with than a cucumber, we looked together and found what we needed. Nora then went on to tell me what she thought about cucumbers and zucchini. They are both green, they are both food and they are both vegetables. A zucchini is smaller and softer than a cucumber and a cucumber is shinier than a zucchini. I asked her what she thought was different about how they tasted. "I don't know. I guess they taste about the same." Her perceptions of a zucchini were limited by her physical experiences.
Similarly, our perception of God is limited by our experiences in the world. We can't comprehend God. We can't know what he is like or perceive his power. We can only compare him to what we know on earth. To make things even more complicated, God is one god with three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. So we're stuck trying to make sense of WHO he is and we can't even fully comprehend how he can be "three in one."
In his wisdom, God has described himself to us through the Bible. When we read his word, we see the three distinct persons of God vividly. We understand that the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) are one in mind and heart, they all know the same truths and desire the same things, they just express themselves differently. In addition, each plays a different role in our faith. Let's look at each one a little bit more closely.
We'll begin with God the Father, our creator. He loves us as his children and formed us before we were born. He knew us before we knew ourselves and loved us before we could love him. He listens to our prayers and loves us even in our darkest times. God the Father plays the "Parent" role in my understanding of the Trinity. He creates life, but he also guides us, teaches us and sometimes disciplines us.
Jesus, the Son of God, is no less God than God the Father. God made up his mind when the world was created to love the world at all costs. Jesus is the physical manifestation of that love. Jesus came to earth as a human to really BE with us. He wanted us to know and understand who God is, so he took on a human body so that we could know God in a tangible way.
Jesus also played another important role in our spiritual lives - he sacrificed himself for our salvation. Jesus, in my understanding of the Trinity is the important connection between me and God. He came to earth as my friend so that he could lead me to and reveal God to me. Jesus is the mediator.
The Holy Spirit is an often neglected and misunderstood person in the Trinity. The Spirit is not the creator or redeemer. he is not seen through creation or in human form. The Holy Spirit is God's presence in our daily lives. He is the voice that speaks to us during those quiet times when we feel God's presence in the midst of feeling alone. He exists because God knew that we humans were unable to live godly lives on our own. He knew we needed help along the way.
God knew that by nature we are flawed. We have a desire for sin that, left unchecked, would rule us. However, we are also created in God's image. We desire to be holy because God is holy and we are created to be like him. The problem comes when we decide we have to be holy all by ourselves because we can't. God sent us the Holy Spirit so that we can overcome temptation and lead godly lives. The Holy Spirit is God reaching into our broken lives, picking up the pieces and making them into a new and better creation. Like impure water made clean through a water filter, our spirits become clean through the work of the Holy Spirit. Once our hearts are made clean, the Holy Spirit stays with us to sustain us and keep us strong. The Holy Spirit is our support.
Given the three roles that God plays in our lives, we can understand God a little bit more through experiences. I experience God the Father when I walk on a cool, crisp spring day and see the blossoms in the trees and the trickling water as it cascades down the gutter. I experience him when I watch a plant change from a seed, to a seedling, to a plant with fruit. I experience God the Father when I hike in the woods and hear nothing but the chirping of birds and rustling of the wind. I experience God the Father in his creation. That is how I gain some limited insight into who he is.
While God the Father is evident to me through nature, God the Son is made real to me through my experiences with others. I understand the sacrifice Jesus made when my daughter is in pain and there is nothing I can do to make it better. I want to jump in and take on the pain for her but I can't. Jesus could, and did. I also experience God the Son through serving others. When I am helping out at our local homeless shelter and am able to talk to a guest for a little while, to give them dignity and remind them that they are important to me and that they matter, even though they don't see me everyday, I feel like God is moving through us. When a guest pats me on the pack and says thank you, I realize that I matter too. When I am looking for god the Son, I can find him in community.
The last person of God is the hardest for me to explain (which is why the earlier section on him was so long) and the easiest for me to experience. That wasn't always true, but it is now. It took me a while to recognize the Holy Spirit as God instead of just my own thoughts. I can't tell you where I experience the Holy Spirit, because I experience him everywhere. I feel his presence when I am so frustrated that I know I am going to yell at the next person I see (usually one of my kids.) I can pray and feel a peace (or at least a restraint) that wasn't there before. I feel him when I am in a conversation with a friend and I don't know what to say, but somehow the right words fall from my lips. I feel the Holy Spirit when I am writing and something I am sure I can never describe in words makes sense on the page. The Holy Spirit is the least comprehensible and most tangible person of God for me.
I am excited that you stuck with this article this long. I'm not sure why I got so theological today, but I know that as I was thinking of things to write, I realized that until we all have a shared view of who God is, I can't talk about God in each person. But each person of God plays an important role in our faith journey. I would love it if you would share your experiences and understanding of the Trinity or of one person of God with me. God reveals himself to us each in a different way, yet his beauty and love is universal. Until we look for and describe our relationship with him we take it for granted. Like Nora holding a zucchini and saying it probably tasted like a cucumber because they were similar, we might miss an interaction with God because we haven't taken the time to experience him.