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Where did the Trinity come from?

by Alyssa Robinson

I don’t want to mislead you… I don’t know the answer to this question. Rev. Dr. Nick McRae educated me about about the Trinity, where it came from, and why it’s in our doctrine in this episode of the Life+God Podcast. Listen here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Having the conversation with Pastor Nick about where the Trinity came from led me to the root self-examination, what was I taught about the Trinity? The way we teach God, three in one, sometimes feels like a distant dogma to me. As a child, the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was usually communicated as an unquestionable fact. There was no room left for wonder, mystery, or exploration. That’s such a shame, because as I’ve grown older, I’ve found that the Trinity sparks my imagination in ways that awaken the childlike wonder in me. It makes me wish I had a gentle guide to reveal the Trinity slowly, consistently to me in my faith upbringing.

I understand that we all do the best we can. The Trinity is a difficult concept to communicate to adults, let alone children.

I remember that the Holy Spirit always felt like an afterthought. Even thinking through the way we say the words, it comes across as FATHER, SON, and holy spirit. I don’t think it’s intentional. I think it’s simply because the Father and the Son are so much easier to grasp. We literally have physical examples of fathers and sons all around us, and plenty examples in scripture of who God is and who Jesus is. So we spend the majority of our time in church talking about God’s love and Jesus’s example, and once a year at Pentecost we focus on the Holy Spirit. Rev. Rachel Baughman of Oak Lawn United Methodist Church said in her Pentecost sermon, “We don’t talk about her enough.” I wish we talked about her more.

Many people see the Holy Spirit as the feminine of God. The word Jesus used for Spirit in the language he spoke, Aramaic, is rucha. Although in the Aramaic text rucha is feminine, it also uses masculine grammatical forms with the word. This conveys the male/female attributes of Yahweh carried in God's “breath” which of itself is neutral in gender. I like to think of the Holy Spirit as the feminine divine, but you can think of the Holy Spirit in whatever way helps you feel connected to the energy of Christ.

And isn’t that beautiful? I think that’s one of the benefits of the Trinity. It gives us flexibility in our personal experience of God.

In my adulthood, I have started to feel so close to the Holy Spirit. She draws me in quietly and consistently to deeper relationship and connection with God and Jesus. And then it starts to make sense to me why we speak the Trinity the way we do. She’s not an afterthought. She’s a calming whisper.

Thinking of the Holy Spirit this way completely changes how I read scripture. With the masculine examples of God in the Father and Jesus, I find myself reading scripture in a more booming and authoritative way. I know those are my own biases and stereotypes of the masculine that aren’t accurate, but since I was a child, I thought of God with this echoing James Earl Jones type voice. I characterized Jesus as more of a Morgan Freeman voice, warm and welcoming, an excellent storyteller with every word making me lean in a little closer. But I had no voice for the Holy Spirit. When I read scripture about the Holy Spirit, I didn’t feel connected to it.

If I think of the voice of the Holy Spirit as a nurturing, calming whisper, it makes me feel a deep emotional connection to the passage I’m reading. It’s like a mother rocking her child to sleep and whispering words of love into her ear.

"And the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased." - Luke 3:22

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. – Romans 8:26

And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. – Isaiah 11:2

And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. – Romans 5:5

It’s such beautiful language. Maybe you read these verses a little bit differently today. Maybe you have a totally different understanding of the Holy Spirit, and if you do, I’d love to hear it.

I realize I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the Holy Spirit when I’m supposed to be talking about the Trinity, but I’ve found the Holy Spirit has unlocked the meaning behind the Trinity. The Father and Jesus can feel so distant to me at times, but the Holy Spirit is right here. The Holy Spirit is that gentle guide who caringly brings me back to the Father and the Son repeatedly. She walks with me and holds my hand in my doubts, wrestling, and curiosities without judgement. I rest my head in her lap and she strokes my hair when I feel lost or afraid. The Holy Spirit brings me back time and time again. She’s persistent and irresistible.

I’m often confused by the Trinity, and that’s okay. I will never have all the answers. Sometimes it feels like I don’t have any answers. I choose to continue seeking and sitting in the mystery of God’s love.

Posted by Alyssa Robinson at 7:00 AM
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