Hidden Figures

Here at our house, we recently rewatched Hidden Figures, a movie which highlights the story of Black women who computed mathematical equations that helped put our American astronauts into space in the early 1960’s. These women’s names were not known or forgotten by most of us until the movie brought them to our attention. With this story fresh on my mind, my daily Bible reading took me to the twentieth and twenty-first chapters of Acts.

I came across  Sopater, Aristarchus, Secundus, Tychicus, Trophimus, and Timothy. Except for Timothy, these names are not household words, but they had been chosen to accompany Paul as delegates from the various churches to take money to the Jerusalem church—important work.

Then In chapter twenty-one, with Paul still on his way to Jerusalem, we find this verse, “Some of the disciples from Caesarea accompanied us and brought us to the home of Mnason, where we were to stay. He was a man from Cyprus and one of the early disciples.” Mnason (correct spelling), provided lodging for Paul and his companions just before they reached their destination. Luke, the writer of Acts, thought his contribution to the church significant enough that he noted him as an “early disciple.” Yet, though I had read this verse many times through the years, I did not remember his name.

Though several of these names are mentioned other places in the New Testament, still, they remain mostly “hidden figures.”

Jerry pastors a church which started in the 1820’s probably as a brush arbor birthed out of the second great awakening. I’ve often thought of the “great cloud of witnesses” who have passed through the church in the two hundred years since its founding but who may only be remembered now by a weather worn monument in the cemetery. And yet, their faithfulness continues to help spread the gospel in this corner of the world.

If there is a marquee in heaven, I wonder if on it we might see names we never knew on this side, but whose lives were integral in what God wanted to do in the world. Those would be the ones who prayed behind closed doors, who labored in unseen jobs which supported the church, who persevered despite criticism, and who did not seek recognition.

Though our work may not be footnoted in the annals of church history, our faithfulness matters. If you sometimes feel as if your work is unseen, God sees it. His smile is on you. From his perspective, you will never be a “hidden figure.”

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).