“Take the very hardest thing in your life – the place of difficulty, outward or inward – and expect God to triumph gloriously in that very spot. Just there, he can bring your soul into blossom.” Lilias Trotter, Parables of the Cross
Lilias Trotter’s words are what the best Hallmark cards aspire to but never quite achieve: a weaving together of real religious truth and the pathos of human experience in a neat little quote. In this case, the hope Trotter expresses is not superficial or cheap; Trotter paid full price.
The life of Lilias Trotter is brought to life in the film Many Beautiful Things, directed by Laura Waters Hinson and released in 2015. The 30-second synopsis? Trotter, a wealthy British Victorian, experienced a profound spiritual conversion in her early twenties, which fueled her commitment to both evangelical witness and social action, including 40 years as an independent missionary in North Africa.
Before making the leap into witnessing the hope and love of Christ in Algiers, she also rejected the offer of John Ruskin (famous art-critic plus lots of other influential things), who offered to make Trotter the “greatest living painter,” able to “do things that would be immortal.”
But let’s get back to the quote. Lilias continued to draw and paint, keeping journals throughout her life. But she consciously rejected the opportunity to improve her ability to communicate truth artistically when it interfered or jeopardized the call God had put on her life. She consciously chose a hidden life, one without a lot of visible consolation or missionary fruit.
Maybe that was one of her “hardest things.” What’s yours? What’s mine? Can we expect God to “triumph gloriously in that very spot” and bring our souls “into blossom”? That would be the practice of hope.