Book Review: Parables of the Christ-life

by I. Lilias Trotter
Isabella Lilias Trotter was born in 1853 to a wealthy London family.  Born with an uncommon talent for sketching and painting, Lilias forsook fame and renown in order to serve the Lord Jesus as a missionary to Muslim women in Algeria for 38 years.  She founded the Algiers Mission Band, which is part of Arab World Ministries today.

In addition to hundreds of paintings and sketches, Lilias Trotter penned more than twenty books and pamphlets.  I had the recent privilege to read two of her books: Parables of the Christ-life and Parables of the Cross.  Both books feature several of her nature paintings which illustrate the spiritual truths about which she writes.  Trotter had a keen eye for detail and a steady hand for capturing those details with brush and water color.  The eyes of her heart were open to great spiritual depths, and I’m glad she recorded them for us.

In Parables of the Christ-life, Trotter begins at what appears to be the end: with a description of a barren African hillside.  I say, “barren,” because the painting that accompanies the first page portrays a yellow-brown, dusty landscape.  Trotter, however, would disagree with me.  She writes,

“LIFE — the first glance would hardly find it on this African hillside in the summertime.  The hot wind of the desert has passed over it, and the spring beauty of iris and orchid, asphodel and marigold, has vanished.  Nothing is to be seen but the mellow golden-brown of the grass, broken by blue-green aloe leaves, and hear and there a deep madder head of dried-up fennel.

Yet life is reigning, not death, all the while; it is there, in infinitely greater abundance than when the field was green — life enough to clothe a score of fields next year.

Stoop down and look into that withered grass, and a whole new world of God’s handiwork will come into view in the burnt-up tangle.  For of all the growing things out here, the seed-vessels are among the most wonderful.  Even little insignificant plants that would hardly catch your eye when in flower, develop forms of quaint beauty as the capsules ripen.  And now that all is finished, they lie stored with vitality in the midst of the seeming  loss around.

Do you see the parable?  We will trace it out step by step.”

Trotter, paying close attention to details, continues by drawing out all of the similarities and differences between the life-cycle of a plant and an individual’s spiritual birth, sanctification and ministry in the church.  Christ-centered and Scripture-saturated, Trotter describes in beautiful detail the incredible work that only God can perform in the hearts of His people.

Though a very short work, Parables of the Christ-life is soul-stirring and brimful of encouraging insight.  The God who dresses and plans the myriad details of the flowers of the field and the God at work within us is one and the same.  I cannot praise this little book enough and would highly recommend it.

This book is available to read for free online.

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