More than a half dozen years ago, a friend called me with some exciting news. He wanted me to know that I was cited in a book listed on the New York Times best-seller list! I pretended to act suave and unaffected, but after his call, I immediately went looking for the book at the bookstore. I dug and dug through the book, and couldn’t find anything – so I called my friend back.
He told me to look at a certain page. I found the page, and he said, “Do you see the first footnote?” I found the tiny little “1” buried in the text. He said, “Now look at the back.” So, I flipped to the endnotes. Sure enough, there I was – listed in the endnotes in font so small I could hardly read it. I was glad to discover it, especially at the thought that something I had said influenced someone else who was now influencing millions of others. But I was only a tiny footnote.
A few days later I read Acts chapter 9 and the account of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. After the dramatic blinding encounter with Jesus, God sends a nondescript fellow named Ananias to visit Saul, pray with him, and prophesy. Ananias is the first human agent to influence Saul’s conversion and healing.
We know little else about Ananias except his obedient gesture towards Saul. But we do know something about Saul of Tarsus. He goes on to become Paul the apostle, the greatest missionary of the New Testament era. Paul – through his witness and writings – went on to influence all of Christianity. What about Ananias? He was not much more than a footnote.
Ananias’ story reminded me that God uses us in the formation of others who might have a far greater impact that we can even dream of. Tom Phillips witness became a footnote in the long process of the conversion of Chuck Colson. Susanna Wesley’s prayers became a footnote in the global impact of her sons, John and Charles. The death of Betty Stam became a footnote in the formative growth of Elizabeth Howard – who would marry Jim Elliot, write the story of the martyrdom of Jim and four others, and affect the entire missionary world.
My footnote brush with fame in the best-selling book combined with the account of the man Ananias in Acts 9 gave me a new prayer for my evangelism, discipleship, and mentoring:
Lord, I pray that you will make me willing to be a footnote in the lives of others. Help me to be content knowing that I may not have a great, global impact – but that I can contribute something into the life of someone else who might? Use my witness, my words my life to affect someone else for your Kingdom. Make me a footnote in the story of your Kingdom. Amen.