Checked Bags and Dirty Laundry

Whenever I travel, whether for a weekend away or longer trips which involves multiple nights, I am notorious for packing as lightly as possible.

Accessories, such as an extra set of clothing…“just in case,” a hat, gloves, or a second pair of shoes, take up precious space and rarely make my cut unless absolutely called for. Sometimes my sparse packing gets me in trouble when precious items—I really could use—remain at home, patiently awaiting my return.

As a couple married for thirty-four years, Shirley and I have learned it works best if we assume responsibility for our bags. We coach and admonish one another in what we might pack…or not.

Last summer while travelling to Israel for five weeks, this standard packing practice worked great for us. I packed as deemed appropriate. On the way home, however, due to accumulation of things along the way, one of our suitcases needed to be dedicated for all our dirty laundry. There was lots of it!  The other suitcase carried all the important stuff; I.e. my laptop, camera, gifts for our children and grandchildren, purchased books and so forth.

As the laundry suitcase, now bursting at the seams with dirty laundry, was the heavier bag, it became my responsibility for our travel home.

Beginning at 2:00 AM we were off! With fierce and determined tenacity, I dragged and lugged my heavy suitcase filled with…dirty laundry.

In and out of taxis we went for the next several hours. Upon arrival at the airport, we jumped on and off of the trams taking us deep into the airport. Upon exiting the tram, while wheeling this unique and unimpressive load, a bead of sweat began to appear of my forehead. I was consumed with the thought; “Would my suitcase would make the fifty-pound cut required of checked bags.”

The night before, Shirley and I meticulously packed and weighed, repacked and reweighed, and re-repacked and re-reweighed our luggage. Our final weigh-in showed my suitcase squeaking in at 49.5 pounds. As I drifted off to sleep, I could only hope the scales we discovered in a lonely laundry room deep in the bowels of the center we were staying was remotely accurate.

Some five hours later, I stood before the check-in desk. I was nervous, wanting to get this bag checked and also anxious to be rid of it. The bead of sweat on my forehead had grown to a steady drip down my face. As I plopped my beastly wonder on the scales beside the check-in desk, 49.5 pounds registered on the screen. I smiled inwardly, gratified that our careful packing worked out. I even found myself a bit smug knowing I was getting my money’s worth as I fully maximized the weight allowance.

When we arrived at JFK many hours later, we waited for our two checked bags to come down the conveyor. One packed full of precious gifts and electronics with all our memories, the other—chock full of dirty laundry. I found myself wondering: “If one bag was lost or stolen, and only one comes down the conveyor, which bag do I hope to see?”

Obviously, the bag filled with our gifts and electronics. The suitcase which carried all our photos and memories.

I reflected on that day of lugging the ghastly suitcase halfway around the world…full of dirty laundry. My suitcase looked great on the outside, but on the inside was full of dirty, smelly, soiled clothing.

Who would want it? I only hoped and prayed security did not ask me to open it up and display its awful contents.

I was reminded of a spiritual reality this event played out for me. How easy it is to drag our stuff—our dirty laundry—everywhere we go. Hanging on to it, even halfway around the world. How dreadful to have this bag opened and disclosed to others.

Christ invites us to check our bag.

As we do, our bag is gone—never needing to be opened, repacked, picked up, or dragged around behind us again.

Our checked bag of dirty laundry is history.



All we need to do is step up and ask.


“I—yes, I alone—will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again. Isaiah 43:125 NLT