by Tom Wacaster
For some unknown reason to this scribe, the number thirteen has come to be associated with bad luck. In order to avoid the undesirable, superstitious people will go out of their way to circumvent anything that has to do with the number thirteen. In my travels to various parts of the world I have noticed that some elevators do not have the number 13, and the floor following the twelfth is actually called the fourteenth floor. Of course just calling something by a different name does not change what it is. For example, a teacher once asked his class, “If a dog has four legs, and I call one of the legs his tail, how many legs would he have?” The class responded, “Three legs.” The teacher answered, “No, he would still have four legs because just calling a leg a tail does not make it so.” In the same manner, just calling the thirteenth floor the fourteenth floor does not somehow make it the fourteenth floor. It is still the thirteenth floor and all the arguing to the contrary will not change reality.
My passport contains a number of visas [not the credit card, but travel permits to various countries], and if I have calculated correctly this is my thirteenth trip into India, my first being in 2004, with two trips on some of the intervening years. Were I of a superstitious nature (which I am not) I could provide you with a string of “incidents” that have occurred since late last week that would confirm my belief that the number thirteen is truly synonymous with bad luck. On Saturday September 13th the pilots in Paris went on strike and international flights on KLM Airlines were being delayed, and eventually cancelled [KLM is the partner with Delta for European connecting flights]. My fight to India on Monday would take me through (you guessed it) Paris. Late Sunday evening when I got home from services I received a call from Delta informing me that the flight from Paris to Bangalore had been cancelled. I did not want to arrive into Paris and have to live in the terminal for who knows how long. So I spent a couple of hours Sunday evening scrambling to book a flight on Emirates Airlines to Bangalore. After I was assured by Delta that the full amount would be credited to my account, I completed the payment for the Emirates tickets. Yesterday (Saturday) I received an email from Delta showing the full amount of refund, and the difference between Delta and Emirates was a savings of – get this - $13 and some odd cents (actually it was closer to $14, but I’ll use a preacher count here for sake of illustration). There is that pesky number 13 again. Was this to be an omen of things to come?
In preparing for my trip on Monday the 15th, I packed my bags, and without paying attention I locked my wallet with all the travel papers, money, etc. in my check in baggage. After Robert and Michael Berry dropped me off at the airport, I got in line to check in and when I opened my briefcase I discovered that I did not have my wallet. Talk about panic! I borrowed a phone and quickly made a call to Robert and told him to head for my house and I would contact Johnnie Ann. When I unpacked all my bags in search of my wallet, I discovered my mistake. Was this another omen that my 13th trip to India would be plagued with bad luck? Hey, there’s more. When we arrived in Dubai, my flight from Dubai to Bangalore departed from gate 13 [my boarding pass read gate 11, but as it typical, original gate assignments have a tendency to change just prior to departure; fortunately this was only two gates off], and the boarding time was 1300 hours. It was uncanny how the number 13 kept cropping up, so when they called for boarding of zone “C” [that how they board now; not by rows, but by zones], I got in line, and counted how many were in front of me. 12! That makes me number 13! Well, the omens were piling up. Maybe I should get out of line and spend a night in Dubai to avoid the inevitable bad luck. But I pressed on. The flight to Bangalore took 3 hours and 13 minutes, the baggage claim at Bangalore airport was number 13, and when I got to custom clearance I got the custom agent at booth 13, and the cost of my first meal in India at St. Marks was just over 1300 Rupees! All of this on my 13th mission trip to India.
While some might worry about such repeated appearances of the number 13, I’m most happy to know that my life is not controlled by such random incidents that are determined by some string of numbers that may happen to keep popping up. Instead, my life is guided and directed by a loving God Who providentially cares for me. All the hoopla over the number 13 is just that – “hoopla.” Merriam-Webster on line defines hoopla as “talk or writing that is designed to get people excited about and interested in something.” Unfortunately all the talk about the number 13 gets people unduly and overly excited. No wonder there is such as absence of peace and serenity in the lives the present generation.
Oh, by the way. This 13th trip into India is proving to be just as profitable a harvest of lost souls as any of the twelve previous. I wouldn’t call that good luck. It’s not luck at all. It is, rather, a demonstration of the power of the gospel when planted into the soil of a good and honest heart.