It is 1961. When Mary Jackson decides she wants to be an engineer at NASA she discovers she requires an extra qualification, one that she can only get at a currently all-white school. So she heads for the courtroom to plead her case.
Hidden Figures is about three African American women who fight against the odds to use their mathematical gifts to help put a man up in space. Katherine Goble, Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan work in a world of prejudice and low expectation. Women of colour have their place – but these three refuse to believe that. They have to battle and keep on battling, and it takes time for them to see breakthroughs.
Perseverance is one of the great biblical themes, and one that is often overlooked. We can mistakenly think that all things will come to us quickly and easily if we are following Jesus. But time and again the biblical heroes had to wait, often for years, to see the fulfilment of their goals and dreams. And some, like Abraham and Moses, did not actually see fulfilment in their lifetime (have a look at Hebrews 11 verse 13). The prophet Isaiah imagined a time when people from all over the world would come to worship God (see Isaiah 56 verses 6-7), but he did not get to see that in his lifetime. Paul began a worldwide mission, but did not see the results we can see today. Ezekiel saw resurrection coming upon a valley of dead bones, in chapter 37 of his book, but he did not know of the resurrection of Jesus in his lifetime, or the new life that would bring.
In Hidden Figures, when Katherine Goble is asked about getting to the moon, she replies that they are already there. That’s her vision. She can see it. Though it’s not yet a reality, to her it is. She has grasped it. Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians (chapter 2 verse 6) about us being seated with Jesus in God’s dimension, in another reality. Not as a kind of escapism, not in order to ignore this world, but as his vision to keep running the race of life. To him it’s real now. Being in the presence of God. Living the life of God’s kingdom. This world ambushes us, it batters us down, the onslaught of daily news pummels us with the kingdoms of man. But there is another reality, and if you’re like me it’s hard to grasp at times. We forget it, lose perspective, we’re tempted to give up. But I’m grateful for those people who remind me, the people of faith from past and present, and those living words of the Bible, which nudge me back towards reality. God’s reality. God’s ways. In the words of Hebrews 12 verse 1: ‘Let us run with endurance and perseverance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish.’ From beginning to end.