Not long after we moved to Central Asia, my husband thought visiting a local aquarium would be a fun treat for our three young children. As he stood in line to purchase our tickets, I held my toddler and marveled over the exquisite craft of the glass blower creating glass animals to be sold in the souvenir shop.
Only the Lord knows why, but out of a large crowd gathered around, the glass blower looked at me and pointed to the evil eye charm hanging on the nearby wall. He nodded his head toward it in what seemed like a reverent acknowledgement of its power. I had just begun learning language and only had a few survival phrases memorized. In this humbling moment, I suddenly felt my lack of language.
Aware of my inability to fully explain why I didn’t believe in placing my faith in a man-made object, I said a phrase I did know. “I love Jesus Christ,” I said in the glass blower’s heart language. I replied with the name above all names: Jesus.
He stopped what he was doing and looked at me. So I repeated myself, “I love Jesus Christ.” With eyes locked on one another, the glass animal he was making, which was decorated with evil eyes, broke in his hands and fell to the table. He glanced up at the evil eye on the wall, and then back at me. I quietly walked off, full of wonder.
“What sets our family apart is our steady faith, expectant hope, and joy that is not bound by our circumstances.”
The name of Jesus is mighty and powerful. It’s our greatest comfort and strongest weapon. God’s grace was sufficient in my weakness regarding my language ability. I walked away glorifying God in my heart, encouraged to continue using any ability I have in reliance on his strength. Although this was the first time I had been confronted with my beliefs regarding the evil eye, it certainly wouldn’t be my last.
Living Surrounded by the Evil Eye
In four years abroad, I’ve been surrounded by evil eyes. In the Central Asian country our family calls home, glass eyes adorn everything from necklaces to doorstops. They hang on walls and are built into the streets that my children play on as we live in this Muslim culture. I’ve never met a local who doesn’t own one. I’ve seen them hanging in homes, offices, and vehicles. Sometimes they are big and obvious, but other times they are discretely painted into designs on pottery.
Superstitious charms, believed to bring good luck and protection, have been around for centuries, and are still prevalent in many cultures today. The evil eyes that are popular around here are typically a blue circle with an eye shape in the middle. They derive their name from the feared evil eye glare. This glare, prompted by envy or greed, is given to inflict suffering, harm, and bad luck on the recipient. People believe the charms act as a shield, protecting against the effects of receiving the evil eye glare.
Our family often receives evil eyes as a gift, usually as a charm designed to be pinned to our children’s clothes for protection. While I used to be insecure as to how to handle a well-meaning neighbor’s gift of an evil eye, the Lord has taught me what an incredible bridge this situation can be to the gospel and the hope found in Christ Jesus. Rather than fear something that has no power over me as a child of God, I now welcome the opportunity to share that my hope and security are found in God, my shield.
Christ: Our Hope, Our Protector, Our Shield
With time, I’ve learned to joyfully receive these moments rather than dread them. When someone tries to pin an evil eye on our baby’s shirt, I kindly decline while immediately sharing that our hope is found in Jesus, not an object created by human hands. As the Psalmist says, “When I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Ps. 56:3–4).
When we talk about life with the people we live among, they often speak fearfully. Sometimes they express fear of earthquakes, anxiety regarding the political situation, or fear of divorce. Many of my friends tell me they are fearful their husbands will leave them. What sets our family apart is our steady faith, expectant hope, and joy that is not bound by our circumstances. These traits are developed in us by Christ and bear witness to the fearlessness with which a child of God can confidently walk.
No matter which culture we call home on this earth, we are all called to live Christ-exalting lives that shine with secure hope and peace that passes all understanding. Jesus prayed that we would be kept from the evil one: “I am not praying that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one” (John 17:15). His word does not fail. We can live counter-culturally, without fear, because we are in Christ.
Kiara Marino, a writer with the IMB, has served overseas with her family for the past four years in Europe and now in Central Asia.