Showing up late

It’s official. I’ve failed at my Lenten discipline. Sometimes I wonder why I even bother trying to do one, because inevitably I get to the fifth week of Lent and wonder what I’ve been doing…or what I haven’t been doing, as the case may be. Does this situation happen to anyone else?

Then, too late, I realize, that if it were a Lenten discipline worth having, there is probably no way I can do it without having some outside help. Too late I realize I’ve needed God’s strength to change. And by then Lent is over and I’ve missed it, and I get on with the business of celebrating Christ’s resurrection life, knowing that real transformation has eluded me once again.

I take comfort in a little story tucked away at the end of John, chapter 19. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus are two religious leaders who show up late after it is all over. Now the gospel writer says Joseph had been a secret disciple because of his fear of his colleagues. As for Nicodemus, he had secretly come to question Jesus one night (John 3,) and the conversation turned out to be more than he could handle at the time. But here they turn up, acting like disciples after Jesus has died. Joe has the guts to ask the governor Pilate (who had had a bad day) for Jesus’ body. Nick comes with enough spices to bury a king. Joe risks his life to get Jesus’ body and they both risk their jobs and reputation. But here they come, out of the shadows, new disciples at Jesus’ death when most of the other disciples have disappeared. Joe and Nick show up late, yet there they are at the right time and in the right place when needed. “And I, when I am lifted up, will draw all people to myself,” said Jesus.

I’m showing up late for Lent. The practice of it has once again eluded me. But the story of Nick and Joe gives me hope that Christ’s love, and perhaps only the power of Jesus’ self-giving love, will still draw me to be at the right place at the right time.


  1. I am also too late.
    Lord, have mercy.