I was the youngest camper on my first day of camp in the first grade.
There was a giant hornets’ nest hanging off the bath house of the boys’ cabins. From a distance, the boys were each taking turns throwing rocks to knock it down.
Being smaller and skinnier, I did not really have much of a chance. After several minutes of no one being able to knock down the nest, I decided it was time for little David to take down Goliath.
Instead of grabbing one of the pieces of gravel already fired relentlessly at the nest, I grabbed the biggest stone that would fit in my hand. With the encouragement of a cabin of boys I longed to impress, I ran up close to the nest and hit the nest right where it was connected to the wood.
The entire home was knocked to the ground sending hundreds of angry hornets flying right at me and my new band of brothers.
Running into the cabin provided little help — too many holes. With each of us already stung at least once, we ran out of the cabin armed with bug spray cans and rain jackets.
The cabins sat up on a hill, so we escaped by running down until it was clear enough that we just dove and rolled. Well, the older boys did. I mostly tripped and tumbled spraying myself in the face with bug spray along the way.
When we were finally safe, we gathered on the main porch and our leaders bandaged scrapes and treated stings.
By the time the wounds were treated and most of my tears dried up, I saw an exterminator truck headed up to the cabins.
My first day of camp was going to be my last.
We had to provide details of what happened. As the one who delivered the death blow to the nest, I was eventually sitting alone.
I was terrified and in pain— and mostly felt really, really stupid. The camp director, Patti Winter, sat next to me and gave me a big hug. She said camp was a place where we could come and make mistakes and know that God would love us anyway.
It was my first profound experience of grace — the taste of God’s goodness that is received beyond what we deserve.
The nests in the world that can cause us harm are ones that can be escaped — and are more easily escaped with friends.
The nest of love and compassion most understood in the world through undeserved forgiveness is one that we can never fully escape, because some hugs really do last forever.