Though the word “Trinity” can’t be found in the Bible, the theological term is used to describe God’s mysterious nature that is woven throughout the pages of Scripture. Theologians have always had difficulty finding adequate metaphors to help us understand the how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are distinct, yet unified. How can one be three and three be one? Many of us have heard the Trinity compared to the three parts of an egg, or the various forms in which water can exist.
A couple years ago I was introduced to a metaphor from music theory that has been the most helpful. Theologian Jeremy Begbie uses the example of a music chord made up of three notes called a “triad.” Each note creates its own individual tone, but all three played together create another distinct entity.
This “three in one” nature reveals God as an inherently relational being; in the same way, God created us to be in relationship with others. Therefore, the chord metaphor can be beneficial as we think through what it is to be in community with those around us.
Playing one note on a piano is beautiful, in and of itself. However, the nature of that one tone is enhanced in relation to the other tones heard along with it. When a chord is played, each note provides the setting for the others, both showcasing their individual importance while also creating an entirely new, beautiful sound altogether.
Furthermore, the sound is enriched as each note is played to the best of its ability. If one of the notes of a chord is softer than the others, the entire sound is weakened. When all notes are played with passion, each note owns its special place. The individual notes don’t need to stand out or compete with the others notes, because each understands the value of the other.
When we imagine community spatially, we tend to think there is a place at the top we need to strive for in order to be our best selves. By this logic, there are people who must be put at the bottom. But when a chord is played and reverberates through the air, each note is both decipherable and indecipherable from the others. Each note has equal value.
How wonderful would it be if we were able to receive the freedom of this metaphor in the various environments in which we live! We wouldn’t need to “one up” each other, since the presence of the other is what makes each individual voice become more fully expressed.
Maybe this can even challenge us to rethink what ”being at our best” means. Being my best doesn’t connote being the best. You are the best in relation to God and others, not apart from or above them.
Jesus’ humble love was the opposite of self-exultation. Jesus shared in our humanity. His act of self-sacrifice made the way for all of the world to flourish. May we take Jesus’ way to heart. May we submit ourselves to living a life that makes way for others to be their best selves. In doing so, may our best self be brought out as well. Together we can make beautiful chords in the song of life.
Originally published in Issue 18 of Converge Magazine.
Photo by (Flickr CC) Chris Ford