I have gotten an entirely new perspective on our neighborhood since starting the routine of early-morning walks. The sun is still hours from rising when Arlo and I meander down our street in the five o’clock hour. Streetlights and a sprinkling of porch lights illuminate our path, but many houses remain dark, their inhabitants apparently savoring their final moments of sleep.
Winding through the neighborhood, we see the occasional light shining from behind drawn curtains. Some garage doors are opened, and I wave at the early-morning exercisers lifting weights inside. An occasional neighbor exits a front door, coffee cup in hand as he unlocks his car door and climbs inside. The jolting rumble of the car’s ignition slices through the predawn silence.
I talk with God as I walk, and I often find myself praying over the neighbors we come across. I also pray for the neighbors I don’t see who are behind those darkened windows and doors, sleeping or readying for the day ahead. We do not know many of our neighbors, but I pray for these nameless individuals who share my community, if not much else. Something about the darkness awakens my imagination, and I ponder what is taking place behind those closed doors. How are these neighbors preparing for today? What surprises or routines will today carry for them? What crises are they enduring . . . what events are they anticipating . . . what emotions are they feeling . . . what conversations are they mulling over . . . what is worrying them as they wash their faces and brush their teeth and sit down to their bowls of cereal?
My own morning fogginess softens me toward my unknown neighbors. If we were to meet in broad daylight, I may discover that I do not understand these people, that I dislike them or that we have little in common, or that they want nothing to do with me. In the dark, though, I imagine that we are friends. I recall that each of these individuals is an Image Bearer, like me. They are unknown by me, but they are intimately known and loved by their Creator. The same Heavenly Father to whom I am praying on my morning walk is watching over the people in these houses. He sees what is ahead for them today, and tomorrow, and for all of eternity. He knows what they are thinking, planning, feeling, dreaming, or imagining this morning. He knows what they will be thinking and planning and feeling ten hours from now, and one year from now, and every minute for the next century.
This small neighborhood here in central Texas is a tiny microcosm amid millions of neighborhoods globally, and millions more that have existed across the span of time. I marvel to think of the billions of humans existing in these countless neighborhoods—billions of unique souls sharing a common thread of personhood. The vastness of this world and its inhabitants overwhelms me; I am aware of my smallness, a pinprick of life within the expanse of the Universe and of all of history.
My sense of smallness is overpowered by a greater awareness of a sovereign Lord who is watching over us all. An omniscient God who is aware of the tears and laughter and heartache and joy taking place behind each door. A God who, despite His omnipotence and omnipresence, still cares about and invests in the infinitesimal. A God who is listening as I walk and pray, is with me in my morning stroll, who reminds me that despite the walls of anonymity we build for ourselves, each of us is fully known and fully loved and never truly alone.