Thomas Merton wrote that God, as Creator, "holds us in being", meaning that he actively wills each one of us and speaks each of us into being at each moment. Any interruption in this act of loving creation would result in our complete and total disappearance from existence not only here and now, but in past and future as well. As Merton put it:
If I am true to the concept that God utters in me, if I am true to the thought of him I was meant to embody, I shall be full of his actuality and find him everywhere in myself, and myself nowhere. I shall be lost in him: that is, I shall find myself.
This is striking, and I think it gets at the heart of what Paul means when he repeatedly reflects upon the reality of our living "in Christ." Merton goes on to conclude that, "the person must be rescued from the individual."
What does all of this mean for us? I know it has helped me to think of God not as three "individuals", for individuality denotes some kind of separation or even self-centeredness in the extreme. Individual cars are unique. Though they may all be manufactured through an identical process, they are separately existing subjects. My Jeep is not quite the same as your Jeep, even if they are the exact same model, year, color, and the like.
God, however, is utterly immaterial Trinity - three distinct persons in One unified divine nature. Each person of the Holy Trinity is fully divine, and yet each is not exactly the same as the other. How is this possible? We get a clue from Saint John in his first letter when he declares that "God is love" (1 John 4:8). Notice, he does not say that God has love or that God is supremely loving to creation. The claim of Christianity is and has always been that God, in his very nature, is love itself.
Now, any genuine human experience of love should help us to understand this at least in some measure. For "love" to be genuine, there must be three aspects present: the lover, the beloved, and the experience of their shared, loving exchange. Lover loves the beloved and beloved reciprocates, becoming lover himself or herself. Anyone who has ever been in love knows what it's like to find oneself swimming in this mysterious back and forth. Sometimes it's hard to see where you end and your beloved begins, you are so harmonious. But you never "blend" per se. You are always distinct persons. This is all a mere reflection of the nature of God himself. This is not human psychological transference as many claim. The opposite is in fact true. This vision is not eisegesis, but exegesis. God is not ultimately like us - we are a little tiny bit like him!
God the Father is lover, fountainhead, the source of all divinity. He pours out his love and glory and wisdom and power, all that he is, so perfectly that he "begets" the Second Person, his Son, the Word and perfect self-expression of the Father who is distinct from, yet "consubstantial" with the Father. He is such a perfect expression of all the Father wills to communicate that he cannot resist the sempiternal urge to respond with an equally perfect and grateful gift of self. The reality of this mutual divine self-donation is so boundless and absolute that it constitutes a Third Person, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Father and the Son who is distinct from and yet "proceeds" from both.
It is this Trinitarian God in whose "image and likeness" human beings are made. We are thus distinct persons, made for objective harmony, not merely subjective melody. We are fundamentally social beings who necessarily arise from, dwell within, and are finally fulfilled in the framework of relationships. Christ's own cross represents two relationships. The vertical beam indicates our relationship to God, between created and Creator. The horizontal beam represents our call to share God's love with our brothers and sisters across the vagaries of human circumstance. We are made through love, for love, and by Love Himself. This is perhaps most clearly manifest in human marriage. It is here in a privileged way that a man and woman enter into a mutual self-gift so profound that, very often, that mutual self-gift literally makes the marriage vows take flesh and require a new and personal name (ex. Baby Lucy, Baby Tyler, Baby Noelle, Baby Renata, etc.)
Some powerful, glorious food for thought and prayer!