You’ve probably heard the saying, “three’s the charm” or “third time’s the charm.” It commonly refers to attempting something several times, finally succeeding on the third try. Maybe this is because when we fail twice in succession, we’ve learned enough through the process to get it right on the third attempt.
A fascination with threes is manifested in other ways, including sports. In hockey, a player scoring three goals in a single game is said to have recorded a “hat trick.” In football, a field goal is worth three points. If three players reach base in a baseball game, we say the “bases are full.” And in basketball, offense changed dramatically with the creation of the three-point shot.
Musicians and singers frequently perform in trios, and when I was learning to play the drums as a teenager, one of the early rudiments my instructor taught me was the three-stroke “triplet.” And from childhood we’re told, “three’s company, four is a crowd.”
In the Bible, the number three also bears great significance. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were three Jewish men that defied the edict by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, to worship a golden image. Instead, they determined to worship only the God of Abraham, Jacob and Isaac. For their disobedience, King Neb tossed them into a blazing furnace. However, Daniel 3:19-27 reports they not only survived the ordeal, they weren’t even scorched. Not a hair was singed.
Even with 12 very close followers, Jesus had an inner circle of three – Peter, James and John. And it was the third day, after being crucified with two others, that Jesus rose from the dead.
|An egg, with its shell, yolk and white,|
comprises a trinity of sorts.
But the most intriguing three – and for some, the most perplexing – in the Scriptures is the Trinity: God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. This foundational precept has been subjected to intense discussion and debate through the centuries. The Scriptures are clear there is only one true God: known as Jehovah or “Yahweh.” Yet, as “Holy, Holy, Holy,” the revered old hymn declares, we have “God in three persons, blessed Trinity.”
I dare not venture into a verbal fray that has preoccupied theologians almost from the time of Christ. Even the most wizened Bible scholars admit, “I don’t fully understand it, but I believe it.” Yet, like a lot of believers, I’ve sought ways of wrapping my mind around this truth. I believe some metaphors – “everyday life trinities,” we might call them – can help us as we ponder this three-in-one spiritual reality.
Functions of light, for example, make up a trinity of sorts. It’s luminiferous, transmitting light or illumination; calorific, generating heat; and actinic, initiating chemical reactions. A single ray of light can do all three. Yet it’s one.
Then we have the humble egg, consisting of a shell, white and yolk. Each of these parts could rightly be referred to as “the egg,” but when scrambling an egg, we discard the shell. Sometimes the yolk as well. Nevertheless, it’s three making up one.
And looking at our own lives, we could regard ourselves as a trinity. For instance, I’m a husband, a father, and a writer. Each in a sense is distinct from the other roles, yet they comprise much of who I am as a whole.
Admittedly, these analogies all fall far short of the wonder, majesty and magnificence of the Trinity that is our God. To say we completely understand the Trinity would be tantamount to saying we fully comprehend the universe.