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It’s Saturday morning. A buzzing interrupts too short a night of sleep. The rest of my family continues to slumber as I tip-toe over the snoring dog, quietly unlock the front door, and sneak out of the house to the sun rising over towering palm trees. The air is damp but crisp, not yet giving way to stifling humidity that will soon envelop us. I turn the corner and begin to pray. “Lord, help me to see my neighborhood the way you see it.”

Truth be told, the state of my neighborhood often leaves me in despair. The dominos of gentrification are falling faster than residents, activists, or city officials can keep up with. Weekly, single-family homes and apartment buildings are boarded up and bulldozed to make way for people of higher class and lighter skin tones. It’s as if the buildings—and more importantly the people living inside—vanish.

Humanly speaking, the writing is on the wall. Hope is dwindling. It’s unlikely the native Afro-Bahamians will be able to keep their community and livelihood from being eradicated. Economists and experts have said so. But I am called to live by faith and not by sight, so every Saturday I take to the streets in prayer, begging God to show me what He sees and what story He is writing for my neighbors and our community.

Dorothy Day says the thing to remember is not to read so much or talk so much about God, but to talk to God. To practice the presence of God. Prayer walking for me is practicing the presence of God in the streets of my neighborhood, where despondency threatens to steal the meaning of it all and I most need to see Him at work.

Prayer walking reminds me of my place in, as Jesus said in the book of Revelation, “making all things new.” It reminds me I am not the leader, but the follower. Many of us from dominant culture have been led to believe (or outright instructed) that we bring God with us when we move to the margins. That is a lie. God was here long before us and He will be here long after we leave. He is in the city streets, the slums, the barrios. When we respond to the divine invitation to move to the margins, we meet God there. He is already at work, making all things new.

Dorothy Day says the thing to remember is not to read so much or talk so much about God, but to talk to God.

Encountering the presence of God as I walk the very streets my neighbors’ ancestors built with their bare hands reminds me that living justly is centering those society has marginalized and following their lead.

My flesh wants answers for what the future holds and tactics for organizing moratoriums on demolitions. I want action steps and audible marching orders from the Lord. I want to do something. Walking these cracked sidewalks in the wee hours of Saturday morning doesn’t feel enough like doing. At times it feels weak and futile.

Encountering the presence of God as I walk the very streets my neighbors’ ancestors built with their bare hands reminds me that living justly is centering those society has marginalized and following their lead.

But practicing the presence of God in the streets is what allows me to have audacious, rebellious hope when hope feels foolish and risky. When I practice the presence of God in the streets, scales peel from my eyes and instead of boarded windows and bulldozed lots I see the scandalously inclusive community of Jesus coming alive. I grow in the prophetic imagination necessary to make all things new.

One step at a time, one foot in front of the other, I walk in step with the Creator—the Creator of my good desires and my neighborhood—and my trust is renewed. Prayer walking, practicing the presence of God in the streets, is protection for those of us who have relocated to the margins. It keeps us from getting ahead of our neighbors and God. It keeps the potential for savior mentality in check.

Practicing the presence of God in the streets is what allows me to have audacious, rebellious hope when hope feels foolish and risky.

With each step my physical eyes see empty lots and condemned buildings but the eyes of my heart see hope and resurrection. I glimpse beauty from ashes and dry bones coming to life. I am able to walk by faith and not by sight. By next Saturday the despair will once again set in so I will rise with the sun to practice the presence of God in the streets. I will beg for Him to give me eyes to see my neighborhood the way He sees it and once again, my hope will be restored.

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  • Lindsy Wallace

    Lindsy writes from Miami where she, her husband, and their five kids endeavor to love their neighbors as they love themselves. She is passionate about downward mobility, ushering in a more livable planet, and good tattoos. She is a co-host of Upside Down Podcast where she enjoys unscripted conversations on faith and culture. Follow her on Instagram @lightbreaksforth, on her website lightbreaksforth.com, and on her podcast upsidedownpodcast.com.