I have never had much luck retrieving my luggage when I have to take two different flights to reach my destination. In fact for several years, it was pretty much inevitable that my luggage would not appear on the baggage carousel when I got to my final destination. Even now, when I approach baggage claim after landing, I can anticipate my luggage will be one of the last ones to come down the chute. I have learned to accept I am not one of those fortunate individuals who, when they get to baggage claim, within minutes can be walking out the door pulling their suitcase behind them. I have also learned that when I travel with people, I need to tell them not to get their hopes up for an early exit from the airport after the flight.
On a flight several months ago, after walking from one of the furthest possible terminals to baggage claim, I got my hopes up that because of the long walk, just maybe my baggage would be on the carrousel when I arrived. Unfortunately, this was not the case. In fact, the baggage carousel had not even started moving. I did notice, though, the carousel next to me was moving and on it were several forlorn pieces of luggage going round and round. It immediately occurred to me that they were probably left over from an earlier flight, and no one had yet arrived to claim them. Perhaps their owners had stopped to get a bite to eat or have drink before proceeding to baggage claim. Whatever the reason, they just kept going round and round on the baggage carousel. I had time to notice this because, while my luggage carrousel had finally begun to move and baggage began to emerge, my luggage was once again one of the last pieces to appear.
This memory came back to me a few weeks ago when the responsory after the scripture reading for evening prayer was: “Claim me once more as your own Lord and have mercy on me.” As I reflected on these words, it occurred to me that with God, we never have to worry about being “unclaimed” and ending up in the lost and found. God loves us, and even if we don’t acknowledge that love or turn away from it, God never stops loving us. God patiently waits for us to recognize and respond to God’s love. The thing is God never forces God’s love on us. Rather God waits for us to allow ourselves to be “claimed” by God.
On more than one occasion in my life I have felt like the unclaimed luggage on a baggage carousel—going round and round, but in reality, going nowhere. Fortunate indeed is the person who has not experienced those times in their life—times when they have felt lost and alone. At these times if we can come humbly to God in prayer, we will discover God has been there all along, just waiting to claim us once more as God’s own.