Monday, January 31, 2011

A Passion for the Impossible

Lilias Trotter was born into a privileged home in London in 1853.  She was extraordinarily gifted as an artist and was self-taught until she was a young adult, when she met John Ruskin, a famed art critic and social philosopher.  Ruskin recognized her gifts and tutored her, expecting her to make art her life.

But Lilias was, at the same time, being challenged in her faith by attending conferences, hearing preaching by D.L. Moody and Mr. and Mrs Robert Pearsall (Hannah Whitall) Smith, serving the poor, and leading women's groups.  And she was feeling God's call to take His message to the world.

At the age of 35, Lilias turned her back on pursuing art as a career and set off with two friends to Algeria, where they would work alongside the North African Mission.  (Lilias's heart was weak and the mission board considered her health too poor to accept her as a missionary!)  She served in Algeria until her death at the age of 75, her weak heart notwithstanding!

A Passion for the Impossible: The Life of Lilias Trotter, by Miriam Huffman Rockness, is perhaps the best book I have ever read.  The library copy which I have been pouring over the last two or three weeks no longer looks new, and I have little scraps of paper marking a number of passages as I have gotten to know this amazing woman, 100 years my senior.  My own copy of the book has just arrived in the mail, one that I can mark up all I want and keep indefinitely.

Lilias's journals, letters, books, booklets, and story parables provided her biographer with a rich resource of material to draw from when writing about her life.  And throughout Lilias's writings were lovely drawings and illustration, some of which are included in the book.  She was a woman of prayer and she seemed to trust God absolutely.  Her love for the people of North Africa and for her fellow missionaries was evident throughout the book, and her vision to reach into new areas to share the Gospel was remarkably far-sighted.

She accomplished much in her life, yet she was never in a hurry.  "Time is nothing to God -- nothing in its speeding, nothing in its halting -- He is the God that inhabiteth eternity."  And children of eternity "can afford to tarry His leisure no matter how short [their] time is." (p. 285)  Nor did she stress when things did not go according to her plans. "One learns as one goes on, not to fear the detours by which God leads on." (p. 317)

The life of Lilias Trotter is a tangible demonstration of God's grace at work through a willing heart.  Her life continues to shine for Christ through the wonderfully written pages of A Passion for the Impossible.

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