I just returned from a trip to Portugal a few days ago.
Three days ago, to be exact.
It was a great trip on the whole. I really enjoyed those I met there for the first time while also reconnecting with colleagues who I’ve met at previous conferences. Alan and Deborah Hirsch were the keynote speakers and they too, were a delight to meet and listen to during the plenary sessions.
Only one thing went wrong:
my checked luggage was lost on the way there.
I wasn’t too worried at first. Nor was I surprised. The airport in Rome is notorious for losing luggage. Additionally, my flight into Rome had been delayed making my connection time minimal. It was no shock at all when I arrived in Lisbon to discover my luggage had not made it on my flight.
The next day there was a strike in Italy so I calmly waited, expecting the luggage would be delivered to the hotel sometime on Friday.
Each day, I and the hotel staff were calling the Lisbon airport every few hours to check on the status but they had no new information.
Now I’m back home and still without my luggage.
I keep thinking how my past experiences tell me that even when things appear to be going “wrong,” God is still at work doing something good. One of my favorite verses in all of Scripture is Romans 8:28 which says:
“And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
I keep looking for ways having my luggage delayed, lost and now possibly, permanently gone could be a blessing. One idea is that if my luggage had arrived, I would have spent time each day going for a run but not having my tennis shoes and workout clothes with me gave me more time to spend connecting with others. Or maybe this happened so I would have reason to get to know all the hotel staff who work at the front desk?
Or maybe this whole ordeal is just a fresh reminder that while it is okay to have sentimental attachment to things (like the earrings I’ve had since I was 10 years old, or the sapphire earrings my sister gave me some years ago, both of which are in my luggage), or to have a favorite t-shirt or other article of clothing, or to be diligent in taking good care of the things we own (like my camera!!)…
in the end, it’s all just stuff.
Stuff that won’t last.
Stuff that will one day wear out or break, or need to be replaced, or no longer be in style.
Stuff that we won’t be taking with us to heaven when we die.
Stuff that we don’t actually own.
As Scriptures declares:
“The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it.” -Psalm 89:11
“(God speaking)…for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it.” -Psalm 50:10-12
All that I have belongs to God.
Was it my jewelry, makeup, clothes, shoes, camera… that were lost, or His?
I readily admit the thought I may not get my luggage back makes my heart sink and sends waves of depression through my mind. There is truth in saying those things are mine, they belong to me. They were gifts given to me by the Lord for He is the giver of every good gift (James 1:17).
But, just like so many truths within the kingdom of God, a seemingly opposite statement is equally true: Everything belongs God.
A thousand years from now, I am not going to care that my luggage was delayed and/or lost. Even 20 years from now, this circumstance will be a distant memory.
But it’s today, and not 20 years or better yet, an eternity from now. When my mind and heart aren’t focused on the Lord, I am frustrated and anxious and overwhelmed at the thought I may need to replace everything that was lost… knowing even if the airline pays me compensation, it won’t be anywhere near enough to replace just my camera, nevertheless everything else… and some things just can’t be replaced.
But it’s just stuff.
And God is at work using the situation to reveal His glory and goodness and to bless me and others in the process.
If I could see what He sees, I would agree it is good that this has happened.
But I can’t see what He sees. That’s where I need faith to step in to help me believe in what I can’t see with my eyes. He is with me in this situation. He cares. He is up to something good, something wonderful.
Lord, give me eyes to see my situation and circumstances the way You see them, to trust You just the same even if You don’t let me see what You see, to value the things You value, to care about the things that are most important in life which are not things at all, and to hold lightly those things which do not truly belong to me.