Museums, Water, and the Trinity

Yesterday was Father’s Day.  I hope everyone had a wonderful day with their dads.  Dads, I hope you had a wonderful day with your children.  My family celebrated with a day at a museum and barbecue.  It was great.

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In the Episcopal Church, however, yesterday was also Trinity Sunday, the first Sunday after Pentacost.  It was the day we celebrated God the Almighty, Three in One, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Over the years, I’ve been asked a lot of questions about my faith.  I don’t pretend to have all the answers.  I just answer to the best of my ability, based on what I know of God and the Bible, and my own personal beliefs.  One question that has always stood out to me, and that has been asked repeatedly, is this: How do you explain a God who is Three in One?  How can God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit all be one in the same Being?  To be honest, I never really knew how to answer it.  I always chalked it up to faith.  It’s just what we believe.

Then I spent three summers working as a summer camp counselor at Camp All Saints up at Lake Texoma.  I talk about my time at camp a lot, because they were three of the best summers of my life and I’m still in touch with several of my friends and coworkers.  One of the best things about camp, to me, was the opportunity to spend time in nature and to learn from new friends and advisors even more about my faith.  Furthermore, I felt a connection to God that I’d never experienced before.

One night, after the kids were all asleep, a group of us sat around on one of the porches and just talked.  About everything.  Well, to be fair, it wasn’t all that deep.  It started out with the guys teaching the girls to spit Sonic ice like real men.  As night fell, however, our discussion turned to God, to science, to the universe, to what it all meant, everything.  It was the most open and raw discussion I’ve ever had in my life, and I loved every minute of it.

Being there with friends, at the lake, really inspired my relationship with God, and the Trinity.  I’m not sure what it was, but that night, I finally figured out how to answer that question, the one about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

It’s difficult to believe in anything that you can’t see or touch or hear.  It’s even more difficult given the idea that we’re supposed to believe that this all powerful being exists as one being, yet as three.  Until, that is, you think about water.

Trust me, I know it sounds cliche.  After all, water is an important element in Christianity.  We’re baptized in water.  Water bled out of Jesus’ side after He was pierced.  His first miracle was an act of turning water into wine.

Water is everywhere.  Just like God.  And just like God, water is one element, yet it exists in three forms: liquid, solid, and vapor.

The liquid form of water represents God the Father.  Water makes life, just like God makes life.  Our bodies are made of water, just as our bodies are made of God.  Water is the most powerful force on Earth, more powerful even than fire, and yet life cannot endure or exist without it.  Water is the base of all creation and existence.  Just like God.

The solid form of water, ice, represents God the Son.  Jesus, who became man and walked among us.  Jesus is the God, who humans were able to see and to hear and to feel.  Just like we are capable of holding a piece of ice in our hands, Jesus is the living and breathing form of God.  Ice is still water, Jesus is still God.

Finally, the vapor form of water represents God the Holy Spirit.  Water vapor is less seen, than it is felt.  Vapor is mist, it moves with the wind, and it travels far and vast in the form of clouds.  Just like the Holy Spirit, who moves unseen, and yet felt, through hearts and minds and actions.  Water in a different form, but still water.  God in a different form, but still God.

I’ve never been very good at conclusions, so I’ll leave you with my favorite Psalm.

“Behold now, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord; You who stand by night in the House of the Lord. Lift up your hands in the holy place and bless the Lord;  The Lord who made heaven and earth bless you out of Zion.”


Back to Titanic

When Titanic was first released in 1998, I knew as much about the disaster as any other ten-year-old.  In other words, I didn’t know all that much.  All I knew was that it was a famous shipwreck and that I was scared to death of shipwrecks.  I knew immediately that if they were going to show any footage of the actual ship on the bottom of the ocean floor, then I was not going to see that movie.  And I didn’t.  In the theater anyway.

As soon as it was released on video (VHS for all you cool kids who remember those days) my mom, a big movie and historic tragedies fan, just had to see Titanic.  I still didn’t want to see anything underwater, but my curiosity and unwillingness to be left out of seeing the biggest movie of the year outweighed my irrational fear of sunken ships.

Needless to say, I became obsessed.  Titanic was the best movie I’d ever seen.  To this day, it remains my absolute favorite.  I fell in love with everything, from the history of the magnificent ocean liner to Jack and Rose’s tragic romance.  I even owned my own replica of the Heart of the Ocean (which has since disappeared… I might have to buy myself a new one…)

I loved Titanic so much that throughout my fifth grade year, I insisted on watching it every Friday night.  It became a tradition.  My family would make popcorn, my dad and I would play chess, and we’d all watch Titanic.  I’m not sure how the chess playing got worked in, but it did, and sometimes, I still bring out my grandfather’s old chess set whenever it’s on television.  Just for old time’s sake.  Yes, Titanic is still my movie.

Like Brock Lovett in the story, however, I was totally seduced by the grandeur, the luxury, the tragic tale too beautiful and too heartbreaking to remain lost in the depths of the Atlantic Ocean.  To me, it was a disaster, but one that had inspired great storytellers and adventurers all around the world. Titanic was the perfect tragedy.

Then, last year, I attended the Titanic Artifacts Exhibit.  If you’ve never been, but have any interest in the ship and the history at all, I highly recommend it.  It’s incredible, sad, and very moving.  Before you go in, they give you a boarding pass and a name of an actual passenger on board the Titanic.  At the end of the Exhibit, you find out whether your passenger survived or perished.

The artifacts on display ranged from plates to portholes to shoes to jewelry.  It was hard to wrap my head around the idea that all of those items had sat, trapped at the bottom of the ocean, for a century.  Here they were, actual pieces of history, and of the story that I thought I knew and loved so well, when in reality, it was the story of Jack and Rose I’d treasured.  Those artifacts told a whole different story.

It wasn’t until I found myself standing over the journals and postcards of passengers that I realized just what I’d been missing all those years.  Those passengers, those people who boarded the Titanic for its maiden voyage in 1912 had no idea, absolutely no clue at all, that in 100 years, their personal letters and possessions would be on display in a museum, but only after spending all those years on the ocean floor.  The ship was supposed to be unsinkable.  They had no reason at all to think that.  It was then, and only then, that the tragedy became real to me.  It was as though those souls were there, reminding me that they had existed, that they had actually lived through it, and they were begging me to remember them.

The artifacts exhibit ended with an area devoted entirely to exploring the wreck.  I had thought, or at least hoped, that I would be able to simply bow my head and not look while I waited for my friend to finish exploring.  After all, I was 25, far too old to let some weird, childhood phobia get the better of me.  At first glimpse, however, I knew I’d overestimated my capacity for bravery.  Wall to wall images of the Titanic on the ocean floor filled the entire room.  I couldn’t avoid the wreck even if I tried.

Now, I’m not one for public displays of any sort of emotion, but the moment I set foot in that room, panic set in.  An irrational, and yet totally crippling sense of fear and anxiety.  Again, I don’t like making scenes or drawing any sort of attention to myself whatsoever, but there, in that room, I completely shut down.  I held my hands up to my eyes like a child cowering in the face of an evil monster.  To the observer’s eye, I must have looked like a basket case, and I guess, in that case, I sort of was.  Images of shipwrecks aren’t usually the sort of thing that send people spiraling into full blown panic attacks.  My friend actually had to take me by the hand and escort me out of the room and into the final area of the exhibit.

There, in that room, you found out about the survivors.  More journal entries and letters, some jackets, shoes, and handbags.  I discovered that my passenger, a first class lady, and her son both survived.

Tonight marks the 102nd anniversary of the Titanic’s demise, and as usual, I do plan on staying awake and watching the movie for what will probably be about the thousandth time (and in case you’re wondering, no, I’ve never seen the parts where the ship is underwater… I just listen).  But I will also be thinking about those artifacts in the museum, the diamonds and shoes and journals and handbags, and the real people to whom they once belonged.