Dawn is approaching and the watchman drowses at his post. The shift is almost ever. A hot bowl of soup is calling his name and his bed sent him a written invitation. His heavy breaths turn to sighs and his sighs turn to yawns. Between the long blinks of his eyelids, something moves in the distance. He shakes himself awake and stares out into the rising light. There is a figure approaching. Just one. An among this figure, there are moving things at his feet.
It is a shepherd and his flock. The call is made down to the gatekeeper to open the gate. The flock is thin and the shepherd is weary. Water is brought and wounds are dressed. The shepherd nearly collapses in his own tears. He shakes and convulses in grief.
The warmth of a hand penetrates his torn garment over his shoulder. A gentle Voice speaks. "Well done, good and faithful servant." The shepherd looks up into his Master's face. The Master's smile lightens with the day, but still the shepherd sobs.
"I have lost many sheep, my Lord, and the hired hands have deserted me." He wipes the snot away with his sleeve. "We've been attacked by wild beasts, and I protected the sheep. Men tempted me to leave the sheep and I wouldn't go, but they beat me with clubs and coaxed away the little ones." His voice choked and rubbed his eyes with his palms. I called the sheep to me, but many ran after these men and did not return. I've failed you, my Lord." The shepherd bowed himself to the ground as low as he could get. His shame and disgrace emanated like a fog and all who watched bowed their heads in empathy.
All except the Master.
"Your instructions were to bring me my sheep. That you have done. Through hardships and toils and deceit and temptations, you have brought me my sheep. Those that were lost will be avenged. I have already sent for that to be done, but that is no concern of yours." The master bend down and lifted the countenance of the shepherd with a single touch. "Come, be cleansed and wash up. Eat some food and regain your composure. We go to see my Father. He has a reward for you."
As the Master led the shepherd away, the watchman wiped away his own tear. He looked out past the wall to see four horses ride out to carry out the Master's will. He looked down at the sheep who had arrived safely and watched as they lay down to rest. Rest welcomes all, but some are too burdened to accept it. These sheep are home and safe and free. The shepherd is comforted and justice will soon be paid. It is a new day.
Setting Sun - Sun Setting in SoCal...I forget where exactly.....
9 months ago