Checking Your Old Bag at the Gate

Whenever I encounter older people who are cranky, unpleasant, or critical, I wonder how I’m going to avoid becoming just like them. Recently, I stumbled on part of the answer.

I took a quick trip south for a wedding. My luggage was very important – the outfit for the wedding, shoes, hairdryer, as well as clothes for the mugginess awaiting me in North Carolina. So important, in fact, that I refused to check my bags, carrying them with me on the plane to insure their arrival.

Just as the plane lifted off after making my connection, I dumped an iced tea into my lap, destroying the white pants on which I’d based the weekends’ outfits. This elevated the remaining luggage to an even more precious status and I made sure to keep careful track of it all the way to the hotel room.

Flying back was a completely different experience. The event was over. The weekend behind me. I packed hastily. I relinquished my luggage to the airline staff without hesitation. I relaxed in the waiting area without a thought to where my possessions would land or when.

The difference?

This time, I was heading home.

My nerves were calm because no matter what happened with my suitcase, I would still have everything I needed when I arrived. I had no worries about my appearance because I knew those awaiting me were waiting for ME, not the impression I would make. My clothes don’t matter to them – I do. Even if we encountered trouble and I dragged myself off the plane hungry, wrinkled, and exhausted, I’d be welcomed with open arms.

While the flight to the event was pleasurable, the journey home was a complete joy. I wasn’t worried about arriving on time, keeping track of my bags, or making any kind of appearance. I was entirely focused on the journey, on my companions, and on looking forward to the destination.

This is how I want to experience the rest of my years on the planet – traveling light because I’m heading home. Focused not on worrying whether I have everything I need, on my appearance, or on carrying my bags but focused, instead, on the journey, my companions, and on the thrill of my final destination.

I want to check the spiritual baggage that weighs me down – sin, self-consciousness, other people’s judgments and expectations, fear, anxiety, and the constant grasping for more so characteristic of us in modern times. I want to check it all and travel, unencumbered, for this leg of the journey – knowing that if that bag gets lost, I’ve no need to fear because everything I need is waiting for me at home.

I realize I’ve spiritualized a common human experience, but God spoke to me on that trip home about what a model that can be for me in these later years of my life. The early years are so full of acquiring things – skills, knowledge, education, experiences, someone to love, somewhere to live, something to do, something to drive, etc. To many people, the years after midlife seem to be more about loss, but I see them as more about letting go; about checking my bags and enjoying the journey because everything I need awaits me there.

Packing in my hotel room, I was struck at how many things that felt essential for the trip down now felt completely, unnecessary for the return trip. I sense that same thing more and more as I’ve ventured into my fifties, and as my children have reached adulthood. I’m releasing what I once thought I needed to live free, relaxed, and focused on only what will matter in that eternal space awaiting me.

Escaping the fate of becoming a cranky old bag may be mostly a matter of refusing to carry all that baggage around with us.

How about you? What bags are you checking for the journey home? What weighs you down that could just as easily be handed over to the airline staff? Are you ready to focus on the journey, your companions, and the open door of home?

If not? What’s holding you back?

Or have you not heard in Jesus’ own words the truth awaiting us: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14: 1-6 (ESV)

It’s a long, long journey, but the best part, the one we can enjoy, is the journey home. So, check your bags, loved ones, and travel easy.

One thought on “Checking Your Old Bag at the Gate

  1. Richard Mabry

    Lori, How perceptive. I’ve had that feeling on trips before, but I never thought that this world is nothing more than preparation for the next. We’re going home, and it doesn’t matter if we spill iced tea on our pants before we arrive. Thanks so much for sharing.

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