Our Works Will Follow Us

parable their works

“Our works will follow us. God may use, by reason of the wonderful solidarity of His Church, the things that He has wrought in us, for the blessing of souls unknown to us:  as these twigs and leaves of bygone years, whose individuality is forgotten, pass on vitality still to the new-born wood-sorrel.  God only knows the endless possibilities that He folded in each one of us!”    Parables of the Cross

At first glance, the above painting appears to be but dead twigs and leaves.  Then one notes a sap green sprig of “new-born wood sorrel” above which are printed words from the book of Revelation:  “Their works do follow them.”  Lilias concludes her book, Parables of the Cross, with words that were both prescient for her and, potentially for all who follow Christ:  “The results need not end with our earthly days.  Should Jesus tarry our works will follow us. . . .”

No doubt, even as Lilias developed these thoughts, inspired by both God’s Word and works, she was integrating the same with her own life experience:  difficult conditions; little apparent results.  Her intended break, the summer of 1895, extended into the autumn then winter months including “bed rest” – doctors orders. Weakness and sleeplessness reflected the strains of ministry yet permitted the prolonged period of rest during which she penned her devotional classic.

The belief, based on Scripture, that what one sows for eternity continues beyond ones earthly span of years motivated and sustained her as she scattered seeds broadcast over the face of Algeria for the last four decades of her life.  She saw lives touched by the “light and life and love” of God and ministries developed that furthered and deepened that vision. When she died in 1928, thirty members of the Algiers Mission Band continued to minister through fifteen stations and outposts along the coast of North African and down into the Southlands later merging with what is now Arab World Ministries.  There are reports in present day Algeria of God’s Spirit working throughout the land, even indications of a fledgling church visible.  She left a written legacy of English devotional books, most notable the Parables of the Cross and Parables of the Christ-life plus her consummate masterpiece for the Sufi Mystics, The Sevenfold Secret.  

I have no reason to believe that as she recorded the daily events of her life in the small page-a day leather-bound diaries, she would have imagined that her personal legacy – her life defined in words and watercolors – would be revived a century later.  Yet this is what is happening even as I write.   God is using “twigs and leaves of bygone years” for His purposes: “the blessing of souls unknown to us.”  

Things have been happening quietly and unobserved over the past three or four decades converging into a story of how, through the “wonderful solidarity of His Church,” God continues to use her life and legacy.  Over thirty years ago, a devoted English missionary remained in Algeria, at the onset of political turmoil, to close down the work and pack up the archives (including Lilias’ diaries and journals) to ship out to safety ultimately in England.  Not long after that, on another continent, two American sisters passed on their library of Trotter books to a (then) young minister’s wife and mother of three children. Her passion for these books and hunger to learn more about their author and subjects led her, eventually, to the archives in England – and to the publishing of a biography of Lilias Trotter, A Passion for the Impossible, plus A Blossom in the Desert, a compilation of her writings and paintings long-hidden in relative obscurity in three cardboard boxes!  

Fast forward to 2014.  A couple “discover” Lilias through these books and envision, initially, a film short to introduce her to the people of Japan believing her art will appeal to their artistic sensibility – and their hearts.  This led to our meeting –  a union that sparked other exciting discoveries – journals and sketchbooks; copies of the “missing” Ruskin letters to Lilias – expanding the original concept into hour-long documentary.

As I write, the film maker and crew are conducting preliminary interviews and filming in England.  The finished film will be a “story-within-a-story,” the search for Lilias being the scaffolding upon which her story will be developed.  Wonderful plans are in the making to present the people and land of Lilias’s beloved North Africa through her exquisite art using techniques and equipment unimagined during her lifetime.

The film will be the visual presentation of  the search for Lilias a century after she arrived in Algeria.  It will be the story of this remarkable woman who made a life-altering decision about the role of art in her life – and how God used both her art and her life for purposes being realized even now after all these years.  But above all, it will be the story of God – and how He continues to work His Purposes still unknown to us – in His time and His way. Only God knows the endless possibilities that lie in her life and and legacy.

And(!) – “God only knows the endless possibilities that lie folded in each of us!”  We have no idea how God will use those things we do and say – great or small  – for His Purposes.  We do know that which is sown for eternal purposes will “pass on vitality” after our own “individuality is forgotten.”  And that is what counts.  To be faithful to our understanding of His plan for us.

I conclude with Lilias’s final challenge in the Parables of the Cross:  “Shall we not let Him have His way?  Shall we not go all lengths with Him in His plans for us – not, as these ‘green things upon the earth’ in their unconsciousness but with the glory of free choice?  Shall we not translate the story of their little lives into our own?”  

God only know the endless possibilities that lie folded in each of us! 

Painting:  Parables of the Cross 1895

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11 Responses to Our Works Will Follow Us

  1. Pingback: Our Works Will Follow Us | ChristianBookBarn.com

  2. steve scott says:

    Greetings and good wishes for the new year from Singapore!!

    I have just finished nearly two weeks in Cambodia…laying the groundwork for the next CANA conference/scheduled for this coming summer. Last night I spoke to an arts group here in Singapore…and as I read through some of their responses to my presentation (on their Facebook page this morning) I was planning on further conversation with them….and referring them to Ms Trotter’s `Way of the Sevenfold Secret’among other books…… How happy I am, therefore, to read this meditation….and the good news re: the progress on the documentary film….the possibility that the Ruskin/Trotter letters have surfaced(?) and much else….

    This last Fall I taught a semester long course on `creativity’ for a local Christian University..and included a section on the life and work of Lilias Trotter……

    All good wishes/Steve S.


    • mhrockness says:

      Steve! It is wonderful to hear from you! It sounds like you continue to be engaged in some amazing art/creativity related ministries. . . We do want to keep current with you. Your poem on Lilias is a treasured work distilling the essence of this remarkable woman. The Ruskin Letters! Yes, a search of almost 2 decades was rewarded, thanks to Sally Oxley, with their discovery at the U.of Texas! 37 letters – 73 pages of text. We still marvel how she sorted that out.

  3. Miriam, thank you for being so faithful to God’s call on your life. Thank you for sharing Lilias with me and so many others through your incredibly hard, yet joyful, work. What a diligent sleuth you are, my friend. I can’t wait to hear the whole story–yet another one, I’m certain, of God’s perfect orchestration of people, places, and events. Glory!

  4. JustBetty says:

    This simply takes my breath away.

    • mhrockness says:

      It does for me as well. It seems that many people have done their “bit” through the years (decades) – none more than the people that have given their lives and love to the Arab people Lilias loved so dearly – yet this is God’s Story: How He chooses to resurrect Lilias a century later for His Purposes.

  5. Bobb Biehl says:


    How does it actually feel with the baton in your hand?
    Part of both … history … and, eternity!


    • mhrockness says:

      I always value your unique perspective! If the baton is in my hand, so to speak, then God is moving my arm! It is such a privilege to be part of the “resurrecting” of Lilias! His time; His way!

  6. This post gave me goosebumps! And I already knew the “story”!

  7. mhrockness says:

    The “goosebump” test is the Rockness measure, isn’t it?!

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