Last August I walked through the oppressive heat, sweating all the way to the post office. I was glad to be nearly done with the monthly chore of paying our bills. As I turned to enter the air-conditioned building, I saw the sign on the door: “Closed for Annual Rest.” UGH! It wasn’t until much later, when I had cooled down and given it some thought, that I began to see what God was teaching me.
There are actually a few things I’ve learned related to that all-too-familiar, summer-time, annual-rest sign. The first involves cursing. Not the #$%! kind of cursing, but the quiet cursing we do in our hearts when confronted with things we do not like. “Why did the post office have to be closed today? They are so lazy. Don’t they know I have bills to pay? What a dumb idea to just close down so they can go to the beach!” When I allow my thoughts to run along that line, in my heart I have just cursed the employees and the entire post office system for their policies. I believe more and more that this kind of thinking and speech is an actual curse that we think or speak, and I believe that it does have an effect—at the very least in my own mind and heart. It is actually sin.
Now I take extra care to not curse in these situations. I am learning how to bless instead.
Here’s an example: While prayer-walking one day I thought, “Isn’t it amazing that Serbian society at-large has a yearly sabbath? Time to rest is considered good and normal.” People generally return from their “annual rest” truly refreshed and ready to take on the demands of another year. I bless the Serbs for their understanding of their limits and their need for rest. I bless the rhythm they have for an “annual rest,” and I bless them with deep refreshment during their time away. In the very place where I once muttered curses, I am now speaking a blessing.
Seeing something from God’s perspective can totally change our thinking and turn cursing on its head.
One way I’ve learned to actively pursue God’s perspective and speak blessing is looking for the “seeds of the Kingdom.” Every culture has different pieces of God’s Kingdom values—Kingdom culture—woven through it.
Let me explain that a bit more. One place I see a Kingdom seed in Serbia is that annual rest. Even though just about everyone in this country is actually living a life far from God, the culture itself has built right into it a system of sabbath rest—something God created and commanded his people to engage in. The Serbs don’t even have a word for “vacation” that I know of. Instead, they use the word “rest.” They are not doing it because they consciously believe God has commanded them to rest; they are doing it because in their mind, it’s a normal thing to do. Yet by living their normal life, they reflect Kingdom values.
Let me give you another example of a Kingdom seed. On a beautiful afternoon in early September I was out prayer-walking again, and I heard the sweet sound of children singing. Of course! It was the “first-day-of-school-extravaganza!” The first day of school for first-graders here is a very special and revered moment in the life of every Serbian family. The student and all the relatives get dressed up and go to the school in the late afternoon for the accepting-of-the-new-students program. It is one of the sweetest things I’ve ever experienced. On that afternoon as I walked and prayed, I could truly thank God for the way the Serbs bless and honor their children. The way Serbs interact with children reminds me very much of Jesus’s attitude as he received the little ones that came running up to him. They love them and they honor them. This aspect of Serbian culture just feels like God’s Kingdom. So I walked and blessed and thanked God for this aspect of Serbian culture, and then I cried a little bit because it was all just so beautiful.
When I prayer-walk these days, and even when I am just out and about doing my daily life, I am careful to curse no more. I keep my eyes open, actively looking for ways I can agree with and bless the things that God himself has sown right into Serbian culture. I ask God for those seeds to increase and bear fruit, and for his Kingdom to truly come and for his will to truly be done, right here, in Novi Sad, Serbia, just like it is in heaven.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
Are there places you have found yourself speaking curses over the people or places you encounter? Where can you see seeds of the Kingdom in those same people or places? How can you turn your words and thoughts toward blessing?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Paul Hovda and his wife Jody have lived and served in Novi Sad, Serbia since 2012 with Novo’s Ethne Collective. Prior to that, they served with Novo in Caracas, Venezuela for eight years.