I was flying recently to Belfast from East Midlands Airport. I arrived at the check-in desk in good time, only to be told that the flight was cancelled, and that we would be taken to Birmingham by coach to join a flight from there. We were directed to another counter where our booking was changed and we were given details of where to find the coach. Since there was an hour before it would leave, I bought a newspaper and then went for a coffee and a bite to eat.
Half an hour later I’d finished reading the paper and was thinking of going to stretch my legs when a sudden feeling of anxiety swept over me. It said, ‘You’ve lost something.’ I checked my pockets for the usual suspects – glasses and mobile phone – but both were there. So what had I lost? I glanced at the floor, and there was my rucksack. Whatever could it be? And then a sudden panic-filled realisation: where was my suitcase? It wasn’t with me, so what had happened to it? Had it been stolen? No, I must have left it somewhere, but where?
I got up hastily to begin the search even as the tannoy gave out the usual warning: ‘Do not leave your baggage unattended. Any baggage found unattended will be taken away, and may be destroyed.’ Visions of my precious suitcase being lost forever filled my mind.
I decided to retrace my steps. I knew I hadn’t left it at the airline check-in desk, so maybe it was at the check-in desk for the coach? By this time a long queue had developed there, but I manoeuvred my way to the front, only to be informed that they hadn’t seen it. So where next? The only responsible thing seemed to be to head for Security and confess my carelessness.
‘Excuse me,’ I said sheepishly, and feeling utterly stupid, ‘but I’ve lost my suitcase.’
‘Ah,’ said the official,’ in a superior sounding voice, ‘We’ve just had a report of a suitcase in W.H.Smith’s. Better try there.’
I raced across to the shop, and there standing guard over my suitcase was a burly security guard. ‘I think that’s mine,’ I admitted shamefully. ‘I came to buy a paper and must have left it behind.’ Fortunately he offered no rebuke, just a silent admonition, and I was joyfully re-united with my suitcase.
I sat on a nearby bench and pondered the number of times I have heard that security announcement about unattended baggage, and rather judgementally wondered, ‘What kind of person in this age of terrorist threat leaves a suitcase unattended in an airport?’ Well now I know (and so do you)!
I also thought about why it had happened. Perhaps I had been on autopilot and not really thinking about what I was doing. Maybe I had mentally assumed because I had checked in for the coach, I had actually checked in for the flight, and my luggage had been checked-in too. Maybe it was a ‘senior moment’ extraordinaire. But to lose a suitcase? That takes some doing!
We can all become so busy in life, so focussed on the detail of the moment, that we lose sight of the bigger picture, and thereby lose our grip on some of the most important realities. We can be so busy at work that we neglect our marriage, or our family… so taken up with all we have to do, that we forget to take care of ourselves. And so busy doing things for God that we forget to be with God, and thereby lose our place of abiding in Christ on which our fruitfulness depends.
What might you (or I ) have lost without realising it?
It is said of Samson, a man who had regularly know the Spirit resting on him in great power, that he became so complacent and careless in his walk with God that ‘he did not know that the Lord had left him (Judges 17:20).’ How sad that is. The glory had gone, but in the intensity of his life he didn’t realise what had been lost.
Why not stop for a moment and make sure you have not lost anything from your life in God that is really very important.