Lessons From a Lost Suitcase

For the first time ever, I overslept on a morning when there was an early flight to catch. I had stayed up way too late packing (and unpacking boxes in our new home), so when I woke up 40 minutes past the alarm, let’s just say that makeup was applied in the car on the way to the airport.

During check-in the airline employee assured me that I had time to catch my flight. I noticed that she put a “late check-in” label on my bag. Fortunately, I did make the flight just in time and from there the trip to Washington D.D. proceeded smoothly.

I wasn’t surprised when my suitcase didn’t arrive on the airport baggage claim carousel, and the staff seemed sure it would arrive on the next flight.

Hours passed and as the time neared for a special evening event, I began to make numerous phone calls. When the baggage claim office was finally reached, I was informed that my bag had not arrived on the expected flight. I swallowed my pride and wore travel clothes to a welcome reception where the dress code was cocktail attire.

After the reception, I made more calls. The employee assured me that the bag would arrive on the final flight of the day, and that she would call at 11:00pm when it did. The hotel provided a toothbrush, toothpaste and contact lens supplies. I fell asleep waiting for the call that never came.

The next morning I made no less than 24 attempts to reach the baggage claim office. When an airline customer service representative was finally reached, they discovered that the bag had actually arrived the night before but the office was not open yet and the bag would not be delivered until afternoon. The rep assured me that he would leave an urgent message to have it taken to the new hotel where I would check in later in the day.

More pride was swallowed. I couldn’t let myself cry because it would ruin what was left of my day-old makeup. I wore the same travel clothes to an exclusive expensive department store, where I was the guest of the winner of an all-day shopping spree with some prize money of my own to spend. By late morning I had a session at the makeup counter so at least the smudged mascara and and dry skin was fixed.

It’s a good thing I used some prize money to buy an unplanned outfit “just in case,” because there was another nice dinner to attend that evening. After phone-wrestling with the baggage claim office late in the afternoon, it was determined that my suitcase would be delivered to the hotel that evening, at my expense. The bag did indeed arrive….during dinner.

Throughout the ordeal, I wish I could say that I handled it well. Maybe I looked calm on the outside, but inside I was doing a lot of praying, soul-searching, attitude-adjusting, and questioning of myself and my circumstances. It wasn’t pretty.

The saving grace was pulling my thoughts back around to gratefulness that I was still able to attend the events. Pride and self-focus were revealed in me, and now that it’s over, it would be nice to have a do-over. I worked on NOT being mean to myself over having overslept. We had moved to a new house just a few days before and I was truly sleep-deprived, so no sense beating myself up. Another lesson learned.

It wasn’t surprising that when I read the next morning’s chapter in a devotional book, this caught my eye:

“Can our prayers change our circumstances? Absolutely! But when our circumstances don’t change, it’s often an indication that God is trying to change us. The primary purpose of prayer is not to change circumstances; the primary purpose of prayer is to change us! But either way, the chief objective remains the same: to glorify God in any and every situation.”             ~ Mark Batterson in Draw the Circle: The 40 Day Prayer Challenge

The late suitcase incident taught me a few things, the first being “jump out of bed when the alarm rings on days when you have an early flight to catch.” But most of the lessons were related to my own character issues and perspective. Of course it’s normal to want to look our best at a special event, but I was a little too eager to explain to whoever would listen that my suitcase hadn’t arrived. It was all about me. Yikes.

The rest of the trip was a whirlwind of meetings, meals and fun. The drama of the lost suitcase faded, but the lessons remain sharp and clear. Awareness is the first step in change (or repentance). And I arrived early at the airport for the nonstop flight home.


  1. Charlotte, I’m so sorry to hear about your lost luggage! The last time that happened to me was four years ago, when I flew across the country to help out my dear sister-in-law with her new (and first!) baby. And I wasn’t late for my flight – so that may not even have had anything to do with your situation. But after that, I was determined that I would not ever check luggage again if I could help it. I learned a ton from http://www.onebag.com, and also have gotten tips from http://www.outfitposts.com (look at the sidebar for her “one suitcase” series). Two years ago I flew to Hawaii with my husband for a week with just a carry-on and a tote bag (for my personal item) and had everything I needed.

    If I ever do have to check luggage again, I will have all my toiletries, cell phone charger, pjs and a complete change of clothes in my carry-on. I’ve learned my lesson the hard way!

    God’s blessings to you and your family as you settle in to your new home –


  2. I learned to always pack things you absolutely can’t do without, like medicine or 1 clean pair of underwear in your carry-on.

    Something I recently learned in the spiritual realm–“I don’t want to be ‘only’ a checkoff on your to do list”. I had finally gotten better at reading scriptures every day and saying prayers every day. And checking those off at least got me into the habit. But now God wants me to have more intent/focus/love when I do those.

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