Unclaimed Baggage

My friends and I went on an adventure. We went to one of Alabama’s top tourist attractions: Unclaimed Baggage.

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This store buys lost luggage and sells the treasures. It is quite a process for this family owned business. Their little museum details the treasures they’ve found in the bags never claimed from airports around the country. My friends laughed at me. We had driven an hour and a half to shop at this store and I went directly to the informational signs. Eventually, I followed them inside, story ideas filling my mind.

One of the strange finds... a creature from the movie Labyrinth.

One of the strange finds… a creature from the movie Labyrinth.

According to the signs, and a little bit of googling later, there were indeed marvelous stories. Once, they found an engraved headstone that someone purchased to use as a coffee table. They’ve found ancient artifacts and important machines that were immediately returned to NASA and the Air Force. Zebra skins, moose antlers, and fifty vacuum packed frogs—the more bizarre finds were displayed on the wall. Kilts, costumes, and diamonds—we failed to find the life changing treasures that have been found there before. The things we searched through were more normal: jackets, hats, and scarves.

Unclaimed Baggage is different from a regular thrift store. In a thrift store, pawn shop, or Goodwill, stuff is given away, sold, or donated on purpose. For Unclaimed Baggage, the stuff is lost. The owner still wanted their things. On our adventure to Alaska this summer, we worried that my dad’s luggage had been lost. Though airlines say it happens for less than one percent of travelers, there’s still the fear that after all the well planned packing and preparation, the luggage might simply disappear. But even in the sad stories, there seems to be an air of hope at Unclaimed Baggage.

Unclaimed Baggage tells the story of redemption. What is lost can be found again.

Sometimes we do not even realize that we are lost. We fail to claim the baggage that comes with sorrows left unfulfilled, sadness left broken, or relationships left destroyed. Suddenly, this all cumulates and we realize we are unclaimed.

But there is a way to return us to the owner. He came for us, made a much longer journey than our little car trip through beautiful mountains. He left Heaven to become a human, hungry and living a hard life. The funny thing about Unclaimed Baggage is that even if you found something that once belonged to you, luggage you had lost along the way, you would still have to pay for it. And while the prices were reasonable, they were not all that cheap.

The same is true in the greatest redemption story. The greatest love story. My imagination still spinning, close to the end of our adventure, I noticed the jewelry section. I took a look. One bizarre pendant caught my eye. The little heart said, “He who holds the key can unlock my heart.” There was a space for a key to go. I thought of the woman who had lost it. I imagined a man out there, still holding onto a key, wishing he knew how to unlock his girl’s heart.

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Jesus became the key. We were already his, and then a broken system full of failure lost us. We lost ourselves. But He never did. He knew where we were, and he paid such a dear price to find us once again, to unlock our hearts and let His light pour in. With the sacrifice of His life, Jesus lived and loved so that we could be claimed and found again, once and for all.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” Matthew 13:45-46

On the way home, we stopped to see a waterfall. The God who sought us is creative and majestic. Here, on the side of the road, was a greater treasure than any  the store offers.

On the way home, we stopped to see a waterfall. The God who sought us is creative and majestic. Here, on the side of the road, was a greater treasure than any the store offers.

To read more about Unclaimed baggage, check out http://www.unclaimedbaggage.com/, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/21/unclaimed-baggage-center_n_5568695.html, and http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/25/business/a-place-where-lost-luggage-gets-another-shot.html?_r=2.

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