The book cover designer, Chip Kidd once told a story, the punchline of which was so good, Mockingbird contributor Adam Morton said it could be turned into a devotional. Chip was standing near the KFC at Union and 14th when a guy walked up to the counter and ordered three buckets of 21-piece original-recipe chicken.

The cashier asked, “Here or to go?”

The guy was immediately incensed. “Excuse me?! How the hell would I sit here — by myself — and eat three buckets of chicken?”

To which the cashier loudly, and sagely, replied:

“Bitch, I don’t know your life!”

The equally sage-like Gerald Heard once said, “We can judge nobody: life is sailed under a sealed handicap.”

Sometimes, usually while doing some internal spiritual rummaging, we get a glimpse of what’s hiding under that seal. Ideally those times are voluntary, but at the time of this writing, Lent has been called compellingly conducive. Feels like God’s been throwing some global script work to Richard Matheson, to the point where I’m half expecting Charlton Heston or Will Smith to show up — in character — at any moment. Prayer and soul-searching aplenty this Holy Week.

The Rev. Richard Coles wrote something in his book, Fathomless Riches, about a personally revealing Advent that’s been stuck in my head lately.

Advent is traditionally a time for repentance, so we went off to see our spiritual directors, monks of the community, one by one. I sat with mine, in a little room with a box of tissues and a clock in his sightline but not mine. ‘How’s it going?’ he asked. ‘Really bad,’ I said. I told him about what had been going on, which I was sure he knew about, and let rip about the foolishness and unkindness of some of the people who I had to live with and work it out with. ‘Go on,’ he said. I paused and thought and said: ‘I’m not as kind as I thought I was. I’m not as brave as I thought I was. I’m not as tolerant as I thought I was. I’m not as clever as I thought I was. I’m not as honest as I thought I was.’ There was a pause and he said, ‘Oh, that’s good.’

Being part of a chart-topping pop band in the 80s can result in a life whose path is fated for suddenly enforced reflection, burgeoning with self-revealing moments — we’ve all watched VH1’s Behind the Music. For Richard Coles, his life in The Communards stayed on trend, and manifested in him becoming ordained clergy in the Church of England. He’s a working pastor, a frequent panelist on the quiz show where I first encountered him (QI), a co-host on Radio 4’s Saturday Live who writes books and also just happens to serve as both the inspiration of and as a consultant to the BBC TV series, Rev!

Coming across clergy, particularly celebrity clergy, with a low anthropology is rare enough to be both shocking and refreshing. They tend to stick out, like Coles did when he once suggested the quickly rejected tagline for a large outreach, “The Church: welcoming losers since naught.” His book’s preface shows he speaks from experience.

I am a sinner. My best efforts to return Christ’s generosity are inadequate, and even devalue the currency they’re paid in. This matters, because my lack of generosity and meanness of spirit and self-absorption contribute, in their own small way, to building a hell in heaven’s despite. But in spite of my inadequacies, and the inadequacies of all who struggle to live in the gap between Jesus’ love and our best efforts, God continually restores to us that inheritance, no matter how thoroughly we fail to be what God would have us be, no matter how insistently we fritter ourselves away on the diversions that the world in all its splendour and awfulness can offer. I have frittered much in splendour and awfulness, and I have tried to be as candid as I can about that, in order that — if disgraced myself — I do not disgrace Paul’s calling: to preach to the Gentiles the fathomless riches of Christ.

Coles does offer a bit of a Lenten devotional in his book, Bringing in the Sheaves, where he points to what’s been done, which sounds like the perfect ending to me.

If all we had to rely on was our own capacity for forgiveness, who would escape condemnation? And that would be that, darkness, unending and eternal, were it not for the light come into the world. At Christmas and at Easter we hear the prologue to the Gospel of John, that great hymn to Christ the Incarnate Word: the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not. Note the difference in tenses here — the light shineth, continues to shine — the darkness comprehended it not — darkness’s work is done.