I’ve had the good fortune to be outside amid all sorts of grandeur lately – the broad expanses and shimmering blues of the Great Lakes, steep forest trails that lead to great green vistas, massive, looming colorful sections of ancient rock. I’ve seen clouds of all shapes and sizes, storms that shake the earth, and both cool, foggy Canadian days and warm, humid southern nights.
From these and other past experiences, I have no trouble understanding how people claim that they experience God’s presence in nature. I get that sense myself. The wilderness – even the relatively tame woods close to home – inspires awe and respect. A sense of something greater, something transcendent weaves its way through wild places. The act of divine creation feels close at hand.
In reflecting on this sense of the presence of God in the grandeur, however, I realized that accounts – for me – for only one aspect of the Trinity. As a Christian, I’ve been taught the concept of the Trinity – God as the Creator, God as the divinely human Jesus, God as the Holy Spirit – from my earliest days in Sunday School. Nonetheless, it remains a complex vision in its enactment. Christians and non-Christians alike try to puzzle through the seeming paradox of the Trinity.
My recent travels have shed a different light for me on my experience of the Trinitarian God. I’ve long understood the Holy Spirit as that of God that dwells within each of us – the internal manifestation of God. And God the Creator can be witnessed among the intricate, stunning beauty of earth and its ecosystems.
But where does that leave Jesus, the Word made flesh? My epiphany was coming to understand not only that I experience Jesus in my encounters with other people, but that those encounters are in fact – for me – the essential means of everyday engagement with Jesus. I’ve long believed Jesus was all around us. Jesus himself gives us this teaching in Matthew 25 in his admonition to see him among the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, and the imprisoned. The call, however, is even greater – and that is to see the face of Jesus in everyone we meet. That is how we know Jesus in everyday life.
The act of putting those pieces together – the Creator I experience while hiking through the woods or paddling down a river, the Holy Spirit I recognize internally, and the face of Jesus I see at the gas station or at the grocery store or next to me in the pew on Sunday morning – gives me a fuller sense of the Trinitarian God than I had before grasped or embraced.
I offer that vision here in case it resonates for anyone else.