On my journey, I found an American flag caught against some rocks in a stream. I did not know how it came to be there. Perhaps the wind had ripped it from its honored perch and blown it across the land. Perhaps the waters of the stream had carried it there. I did not know.
As I pulled it from the water and spread it out, I saw its condition. Torn and shredded, that flag was in poor condition. And as I gazed upon the symbol of my country, I saw in it the condition of that same nation.
Torn apart at the very seams, from all angles. Gaping holes within the fabric that gave lie to the integrity of the whole. Only the barest of threads held that flag together anymore. Much like America.
I realized then why I had left. Why I gone into the wilds and left behind everything.
I had lost my faith.
I had given up hope.
I had given my all, and it was not enough.
Later, as I sat beside my fire that night, I wondered where we had gone wrong. Was there something we could have done differently? Was there something we should have done differently? Would any of it have mattered?
I did not know.
While lost in my thoughts, I was startled to find an old friend of mine approaching from the darkness of the night to site across the fire from me.
“What brings you here, Publius?” I asked him.
He looked at me as a father looks at his son. Then he spoke to me in a voice full of reassurance and kindness.
“I have come to restore that which you have lost.”
I did not know that I was blind, until he let me see.
I did not know that I was deaf, until I heard him speak.
I did not know that I was mad, until he made me sane.
The visions I saw showed me a great many things. I saw the past, the present, and the future.
I saw an America, its wounds healed, standing united. All people together as one for the first time in many years.
I saw a grand city, open to all, shunning none. A city that was as strong as the nation, as accepting as its Emperor, and as free as its people. A city that did not know evil, did not understand fear, and did not harbor hate.
I saw a flag, flapping in the wind. A flag strong and true. A flag with colors bright as the sun; a flag the people looked upon with pride, love, and respect. A flag that stood not only for a nation, but for all its people.
A flag in the red, white, and blue.
As the visions flooded my mind, I realized then that the one before me was not merely a man. He was something more, something different. I asked him why he had walked among us as a man these many years.
“To learn of man, one must walk alongside him. I have learned of man and given him my wisdom when he asked.
“Now I see that man needs me once again. I have answered his call. And I, in turn, have called upon those whom I hope will serve me.”
Without another word, he picked up the torn flag and placed it in my hands, then he turned from my fire and left, disappearing into the darkness as he had arrived, and as he vanished realization came to me.
Just as a tailor with needle and thread could repair a torn flag, so too could a man help to heal a nation. I had abandoned all of my brothers and sisters in my despair and fled our troubles. Yet, despite my betrayal, I had been forgiven.
In my fear, I had given up hope. In my rage, I had lost my faith. In my pride, I had stopped trying. Yet still he called me. He had come to me, healed my wounds, and he had asked me to join his people, to serve him. He carried the weight of a world on his shoulders and he did not suffer for it.
In my eyes lingered the image of a city, standing under a flag of brotherhood. And I knew the name of that city. It was his city; the city his followers would build; the city he would bless with open arms.
It was a city that I would help build.
Caecus ego, sed modo video. ~~~ I was blind, but now I see.
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