With God, there is no luck

Tales from the front pew

There’s an old song by the group named Three Dog Night called “One is the Loneliest Number.”

With apologies to the band, I beg to differ. I think that the loneliest number, by far, is 13. It vacillates between being utterly reviled and completely ignored.

After spending lots of time in elevators lately, I’ve been mulling over unlucky number 13. And upon realizing that today is Friday the 13th, this seemed like the perfect time to examine the reasons behind the bad rap the number typically receives.

Research indicates that approximately 10 percent of the population is a bit uneasy about the number 13. There are some folks, however, who are downright frightened of it — something referred to as triskaidaphobia (not to be confused with a strong dislike of those little square-shaped wheat crackers).

This general unease is reflected in several ways. Take buildings, for example. Most ignore the 13th floor altogether, going directly from 12 to 14. Of course, if you take a moment to think about it, the 14th floor technically is the 13th floor. I guess triskaidaphobic beggars can’t be choosers.

Room numbers get similar treatment, be it apartment complexes, professional offices or hospitals – the number 13 is conspicuously absent on doors.

OK, we know what it’s called and how it manifests itself, but just what is it about the number 13 that’s scary enough to set it apart from, say, 12 and 14?

Interestingly, some people believe that a lot of this fear can be traced back to Biblical times. For example, there were 13 individuals at Jesus’ last supper. In fact, some people opine that number 13 was Judas Iscariot. Some scholars believe that Jesus’ crucifixion occurred on the 13th, and in the book of Exodus it is noted that the Jews murmured against God 13 times. And then there’s the 13th Psalm, which focuses on wickedness and corruption.

Of course, everybody knows that the granddaddy of bad luck days is Friday the 13th. This particular fear is called parakevidekatriaphobia, which is Greek for “Nobody’s ever gonna be able to pronounce this.”

Like the number 13, there are a few possible reasons the day got such a bad rap: the fact that in ancient times Friday was considered unlucky in itself, or the 1307 incident when hundreds of Knights Templar were arrested. It was definitely an unlucky day for those guys, anyway.

As the daughter of a very Irish mother, I was indoctrinated into superstition at a young age. I avoided walking under ladders, threw salt over my left shoulder if I spilled any, never opened an umbrella indoors and knocked on wood if I ever said anything that might tempt fate. As you might imagine, Friday the 13th was a pretty tense day in our house.

In fact, superstition was a stronghold in my life for quite a while, until I gave my heart to the Lord. Potential Bible origins aside, fear of the number 13 is just another way the enemy tries to keep us in bondage.

With God there is no luck, good or bad. With God there is freedom.