“Joy and peace from the first step”

[Lilias Trotter, Sketch on Loose Page of Christ Knocking—Used by permission of Lilias Trotter Legacy and Arab World Ministries of Pioneers]

In Sevenfold Secret (1926), Trotter explained the seven “I AM” statements in the Gospel of John to Sufi mystics.

There is between us and you, our brothers the Sufis, much agreement. The Sufi is a man who has the purpose of discovering secrets, and they are the secrets of Divine truth and Divine power. He leaves to other men the lifeless husk, that is to say, the things that are seen, and he desires with all his heart to break through to the kernel, that is, to the things that are unseen, and that have in them the essence of eternal life.

And we Christians are with you in this. One of the Apostles of old spoke these words, which are written in the Holy Book: “We look, not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

We do not despise the husk which consists of “the things that are seen,” that is to say, the ordinary materials of life, as honour and food and raiment, and the joys of family and friendship, and the profit of learning, for God created all our visible surroundings in this world to enfold the true kernel that He would bestow on us, and the kernel of all things is the knowledge of Himself. 

And like you, O People of the Way, we want to reach the best that is possible to us in our life in this world, which is union with God, and we desire this kernel notwithstanding all that it may cost to break through the husk of the things that are seen: that is, all of surrender and of sacrifice that may lie before us in His will.

But, though our aim and yours is the same, there is a great divergence between us and you in the method of the search. You hold, by the experience of the saints that have gone before you, that you must pass by a long and hard wrestling, through stage after stage, and you hold that it may please God, or it may not please Him, to bestow on you the states that will bring you at last to knowledge and union. And also you are aware of the snares that beset you all along the road. . . .

But we can tell you of a road wherein we have found joy and peace from the first step. And this road does not depend on a man’s good works, such as much fasting and rising by night and retirement and meditation—and it does not involve the abandonment of yourself to the counsels of a director, be he ever so celebrated, and it does not consist in the dispositions acceptable to God that you seek for in your heart; but this new and wonderful road is in the revelation of Jesus Christ to your spirit, for He is the One Who has come into the world to bring us to God by means of His redemption, whereby He destroyed all the veils that separated us from Him.

We wish in this book to place before you seven of the sayings of Christ concerning Himself while He was in the world. . . . [They] are wonderful words to us and to you. For these seven sayings are so simple that a child can understand them, according to his intelligence, but so deep that all the wise men in the world cannot reach to their depths.—from the preface

If we are but a little band in any one place, we are one family with all His people of every country, and all the ages past. By the life current of the One Spirit Who flows through us all, we are united with Him and with each other. And at the last He means to perfect us all together, in a unity of which all earthly symbols are but a shadow. 

Truly we shall all need each other for the perfecting of the whole Body of Christ in the day that is coming: but the greater thing than this, my brother, is that Christ Himself needs you, and He needs you now. It is He Who has followed you for long, as the shepherd follows his wandering sheep, and has awaked, by His calling, a cry in your heart for God: and that cry He has come from God to meet. You can find through Him the true goal of man in being God-satisfied, God-satisfying.

Will you have Him? Shall He have you? —from chapter seven, “The Secret of Abiding”

By Lilias Trotter

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #148 in 2023]

Lilias Trotter, The Way of the Sevenfold Secret, was written to convert Sufis
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