This week I picked up the bio on Lilias Trotter, my new hero...
By Miriam Huffman Rockness
Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers, 1999
This biography tells the story of a young lady that left her London home and comfortable life for the more modest life in Algeria among the unreached.
The art critic and social revolutionary John Ruskin believed that Trotter had the potential to be one of the best artists of the nineteenth century. But she gave that up to follow a call to reach the unreached, the Muslims of North Africa, and her love of literature and her talent in art gave way to new ways to share about the work happening on the mission field.
To get there she had to go through a "crisis of her soul." She had to decide between a future in the art world and a call to ministry. The story of her work in Algeria is inspiring and challenging, but it was this tension she felt between art and missions that resounded the most with me at this time.
My current struggle is slightly different than Lilias'. I am in process of transitioning from music industry to missions -- and doing so gladly -- but while she took her love and arts into her new life, I am changing fields and careers entirely. I am looking forward to continue doing some freelance writing/editing but I am currently working on letting go of a job that I've had for the past six years. I have been debating how and when to make the break or if I even should (I mean, won't the extra money be helpful?). But as I read Lilias' story, I felt more convinced that I needed to make the break, and until I do so, I won't fully be trusting God to provide for the needs that I have (fundraising!).
Lilias said, "I see clear as daylight now, I cannot give myself to painting in the way he [Ruskin] means and continue still to 'seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness'" (84). As things stand right now, my time is divided. I have more than enough work to keep me busy at my new job, while the workload from my music job hasn't let up -- in fact, it's gotten busier. It's possible that I could do both jobs but I don't feel like I can fully focus on the new job and do the work that God brought me here to do.
The biographer notes that Lilias felt the same way about her art and ministry. "But Lily, whole-souled as she was, knew that she could not continue to do both and give either what it would require of her. The rudder of her will had already been set toward God's purposes, whatever they might be (84.)"
"For all people, however, as for herself, Lilias believed that the fundamental issue in life remained the same: a need for total abandonment to God's purposes. The ultimate test, if not the specific path, would require the willingness to renounce anything--person, place, possession, plan--anything that would stand in the way of God's design" (85).
There are other quotes from Lilias that relate to this matter: "It is loss to keep when God says 'give'" (86). "The one thing is to keep obedient in spirit; to do otherwise would be to cramp and ruin your soul" (88). And her long-form essay Parables of the Cross address this, too.
She's a hero because she gave up the comforts of her life and went to serve the unreached. She went to a difficult place to reach difficult people. She make the decision to be "whole-souled" and not let herself be divided by various passions. She gave it all up to God and he worked them all together for his purpose. It's amazing story -- I highly recommend it.