2013: superstition or promise?
For I know the plans I have for you . . . plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. – Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
The fear of the number 13 is so pervasive that it even has a phobia named after it: triskaidekaphobia. Based on this phobia, airlines typically do not have a 13th row and most tall buildings do not have a 13th floor. People the world over have a strange, often unexplained phobia which is associated with this number.
Post-colonial societies which have had a history of slavery have, or so it seems, imposed a cultural and almost racial ring to the number in their reference to notions like Black Friday if it falls on the 13th of the month (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triskaidekaphobia).
We are also aware of other fears which have nothing to do with this number. For example, if a black cat runs across your path either while you are walking or driving, those who are prone to superstitious tendencies get bothered. Black cats were believed to be “witches in disguise”, writes Richard Webster in the reference work: The Encyclopedia Of Superstitions.
Opening an umbrella in a room is supposed to invite evil spirits or “duppies”. If you want to meet the devil, be at a crossroads at the stroke of midnight. So from time immemorial superstition has always been part of man’s existence.
Thirteen is regarded as an unlucky number in many cultures. One view holds that 13 is a reflection of the human fear of the unknown, since it is the first number that cannot be enumerated using our ten fingers and two feet. Due to this fear, in some countries, some avenues do not contain a house number 13 for similar superstitious reasons.
The fairer sex among us might be keen to know that the number 13 is unlucky because it is the number of full moons in a year. Women living in a natural environment tend to have their period during a full moon. A woman typically has 13 periods in a year.
In the past, a woman who bled during a full moon was seen as a witch. The fear of women’s connection to the moon, as well as the association of the full moon with mental disorders is, according to this theory, responsible for the number being seen as bad luck and as being connected to supernatural forces (http://www.answers.com/topic/thirteen).
The Egyptians were the first to develop a superstition for the number 13, but for them it brought good luck. They believed that there were 12 steps on the ladder to eternal life and knowledge and to take the 13th step meant going through death into everlasting life. Thirteen, for the Egyptians, was associated with immortality.
Barbados is primarily a Christian society. At the centre of Christianity is faith. As we begin this new year 2013, let us assert that by God’s grace there is absolutely nothing fearful, uncertain or superstitious about the year. As Christians, in spite of what the various professionals predict, we must go forward in faith, knowing that God is in control. In Hebrews 11:1 faith is defined as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (NKJ).
Faith is not mere human hope, it is based on the Word of God alone. As Christians we often say, “I am hoping for the best”. Based on our faith we should be saying: “I have prayed and I am believing God for the best . . . .” (http://www.the gloryland.com).
We find it so easy to trust in the natural laws such as gravity and inertia and assume that they will work the same every day. If the universe was unpredictable and untrustworthy, chaos would reign and life as we know it would be impossible.
We trust other human beings. We trust our surgeon, our spouse, our pilot and so on. However, faith in God is supernatural – a gift from God. As Christians then it should be very easy for us to trust God and believe that He will work things out in our favour.
In Jeremiah 29:11, the Lord declares: “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (NIV) As we begin the year 2013, we must rebuke any notion of superstition, doubt or uncertainty and exercise our faith in ways that will stun the world and lift up God and His sustaining power and grace.
The year 2013 has absolutely nothing to do with witches or superstition but it has everything to do with promise, hope and an acknowledgement that an omnipotent God is in charge.
• Matthew D. Farley is a secondary school principal, chairman of the National Forum on Education, and a social commentator. Email [email protected]