How does one understand the trinity, this concept of three co-eternal persons making up the godhead? What symbols can we use to explain such an unfathomable mystery? When I was a boy, my family had a book about the trinity, likening it to an apple. Just as the apple has three parts: the skin, the flesh, and the core; so God has three parts: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In college one of my professors preferred the metaphor of water. Just as it has three forms: solid, liquid, and gas; so does God have three forms: Father, Son, and Spirit. According to legend, when Saint Patrick arrived in Ireland during the fifth century, he used the shamrock to show the people what God was like. Just as the shamrock has three leaves yet is still one plant, so God is three persons yet still one God.
No matter how imperfect they are, we humans need metaphors. Even though we can't grasp what the trinity looks like or understand everything about God, finding something He can be likened to helps us as we strive to deepen our knowledge of Him. This is why Jesus used so many parables while He was on earth. He was trying to communicate with people what the Kingdom of Heaven was like, but how could He do it when His kingdom was so different from any kingdom they had ever seen? So many of His parables begin with, "The kingdom of heaven is like unto..." (Matthew 22:2) and conclude with a treasure buried in a field (Matthew 13:44), a merchant seeking pearls (Matthew 13:45), a net cast into the sea (Matthew 13:47), a king taking account of his servants (Matthew 18:23), a farmer hiring vineyard workers (Matthew 20:1), a king preparing a marriage feast for his son (Matthew 22:2), ten virgins waiting for the bridal procession (Matthew 25:1), and a traveling man entrusting his wealth to his servants (Matthew 25:14). As we try to communicate the eternal truths found in the Bible, let's remember to use metaphors and stories. The people in the world around us won't even begin to comprehend them if we don't.
Learning to speak so others can understand,