In the Word: The 'Shyness' of God
This is the original temptation ("You shall be as God"), and it continues to infect both families and small groups, congregations and denominations. Whenever we insist on our own way, take credit for a group's accomplishment, or walk away hurt because we weren't consulted, we're struggling with this form of self-centeredness and self-glorification.
By way of contrast, think about life within the Trinity. How do Father, Son, and Holy Spirit relate to each other? Are there lots of arguments over who's the most omniscient, the most omnipresent, or the oldest?
In that absence there is a lesson.
Dale Bruner, in an essay on the Trinity, begins with the person of the Holy Spirit:
One of the most surprising discoveries in my own study of the doctrine and experience of the Spirit in the New Testament is what I can only call the shyness of the Spirit …
What I mean here is not the shyness of timidity (cf. 2 Tim. 1:7) but the shyness of deference, the shyness of a concentrated attention on another; it is not the shyness (which we often experience) of self-centeredness, but the shyness of an other-centeredness.
It is, in short, the shyness of love. Bruner points out the ministry of the Spirit in the Gospel of John, a ministry constantly to draw attention not to himself but to the Son—the Spirit comes in the Son's name, bears witness to the Son, glorifies the Son (cf. John 14:26; 16:13).
The ministry of the Spirit could be pictured, Bruner says, by my drawing a stick figure (representing Jesus) on a blackboard. Then, to express what the Spirit does, I stand behind the blackboard, reach around with one hand, and point with a single finger to the image of Jesus: "Look at him, listen to him, learn from him, follow him, worship him, be devoted to him, serve him, love him, be preoccupied with him."
This is what Bruner calls the shyness of the Holy Spirit.
But when we look at the Son, oddly enough we see that he didn't walk around saying, "I am the greatest." He said, "If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing" (John 8:54). He said he came not to be served but to serve. He submitted to the Spirit, who Mark tells us "drove him into the wilderness." He told the Father in his climactic struggle, "not my will, but yours be done." Jesus, too, has this same "shyness."
Then there is the Father. Twice in the synoptic Gospels we hear the voice of the Father: once at baptism and again at the Transfiguration.
Both times his words are a variation of this message: This is my priceless Son. I am deeply pleased with him. Listen to him!
It is worth noticing, Bruner writes, that this voice does not say, "Listen to me too, after listening to him; don't forget that I'm here too; don't be taken up with my Son."
Because "God the Father is shy, too. The whole blessed Trinity is shy. Each member of the Trinity points faithfully and selflessly to the other in a gracious circle."
I was raised in some ways to think of God as a proud, almost arrogant being who could get away with his pride because he was God. The doctrine of the Trinity tells me it is not so. God exists as Father, Son, and Spirit in a community of greater humility, servanthood, mutual submission, and delight than you and I can imagine. Three and yet One. Oneness is God's signature.