“Here! Hold this. Do you want to go back to this?” She was holding a brick, nearly shoving it into my face. I didn’t want to go back to that. She got her point across, and I got back to work.
I graduated from college in December of 1974. Diane and I were married in June of 1975, and we headed off to the seminary in late August of that year. In the eight months from January to August I worked at Kasten Clay Products, a brick factory in Jackson, Missouri. It was hot, heavy, grueling work.
The brickyard had a 1500 degree kiln running down the center of the factory. Workers on the cool end of the factory would load cars in a certain manner with uncured bricks. These would be pushed car after car into the kiln. Eight hours later they would come out the other side, cool, and be sent back to the loading place again. As they were being sent back they would be unloaded, put onto a conveyor belt, and stacked into bales of 500 bricks.
My main job at the brick factory was to take bricks, four at a time, two in each hand, and move them from the conveyor belt to the jig. There they were stacked, strapped with steel bands, and taken away by forklift – 500 brick bale after 500 brick bale all day long.
I would end my shift, head home, run the bathroom sink with hot water, plunge my hands in the water to try to get the soreness out. Then I’d take a bath, go downstairs, eat supper, then go up to bed. I was exhausted! I did manage to be the most physically-fit I’ve ever been during those months. But it was at quite a price! During my time there, I estimate that I handled 1.2 million bricks!
When I read about the children of Israel having to make bricks for Pharoah, my heart goes out to them. I don’ t really understand, however, why they would ever want to go back (cf. Numbers 14:2-4).
When Diane handed me that brick I was in the first semester of seminary. I was discouraged by the difficulty of the classes I was taking. I was trying to apply myself, but I wasn’t able to do as well as easily as I had when I had returned to college two years prior to that time. I had to study. Hard. Focus. Read. Memorize. Learn. Recall. Figure out the difference between Moses and Abraham, but learn about people like Mephibosheth, and Mahershalalhashbaz!
I was ready to quit. She handed me the brick and I sat down and started studying again. It was a great reminder, and a powerful motivator.
When the children of Israel crossed the Jordan River Joshua told them to set up a monument of 12 stones taken from the river bed:
When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, 2 “Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, 3 and command them, saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests’ feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.’” 4 Then Joshua called the twelve men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. 5 And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, 6 that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ 7 then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.”Joshua 4:1-7