A Brick in the Valley

A Bitterness Illustration that was too Long
June 6, 2007, 4:27 am
Filed under: Forgiveness

I wrote the below material as an illustration about bitterness.  But, it ended up being too much illustration and not enough truth.  So, I had to cut it out.  But, I couldn’t bear to completely delete it.

 If you don’t want to read the illustration, here is the point.  Avoid bitterness like the bubonic plague.

For those with nothing to do, here is a true story about 6th grade science. . .

My sixth grade science teacher lost control of the class.  It was the guy’s first and only year teaching.  He was a nice guy but not cut out for six graders in general and sixth grade boys in particular.


Our science room featured a cabinet stocked with chemicals that supervised sixth graders probably had no business messing with, let alone our bunch.  One day this kid named Charlie decided to randomly mix chemicals.  We paid no attention to what Charlie was doing until there was a loud cracking explosion, on the level of a basic firecracker.  This got our attention. 

You may not find it significant that mixing together chemicals caused an explosion, but we were sixth grade boys.  It was monumental: the equivalent of a nuclear warhead.  We learned that we could mix stuff up and it would explode without even using a match.  I later majored in chemistry and that explosion figured in me choosing my major. 


You could divide our sixth grade science timeline into pre-Charlie’s explosion and post-explosion.  (There was also a significant event involving the gerbils which is another story).  After Charlie invented a fire cracker that did not require a flame, we thought we might be on the brink of a scientific break through.  We convinced our teacher (who had been mortified at the initial explosion) that we should try and recreate the brew.  He resisted, but we argued that he may have stumbled on an alternative energy source or something that would make bionics possible.  (A television show about a bionic man, The Six Million Dollar Man, was popular at the time).


So, we began repeating the process (with about 5 times the quantities that Charlie used).   It was our version of the Manhattan Project.  We mixed the stuff in a metal container in the sink. About 15 minutes into our research we were awed when the metal container began to melt.  We started getting slightly anxious when the mix began to emit a foul odor and what I can only assume was a deadly gas.  Our teacher laughed nervously, maybe even a little hysterically.


One farm kid, we were pretty much all farm kids, whose major exposure to gas was anhydrous ammonia, sprang into action and turned on the water in the sink.


I don’t recommend that you try mixing miscellaneous chemicals up in a sink.  But if you do, and if it begins to emit a deadly gas, don’t try and stop the reaction with water.


You should have seen it.  Turns out, water was the missing ingredient for what was later simply called, “the explosion.”  The sink erupted like a volcano.  A ball of flame shot up and licked the ceiling.  Actually, it was only a flame of a foot or two, but we were in sixth grade.  The story needs to grow. 

Our building did not have sprinklers or probably even smoke detectors so that was kind of the end of it, except that after we were not allowed to mix chemicals.  So we switched to playing with mercury which was also in the chemical cabinet.


Mercury is an amazing substance.  It is physically dense.  Even a small container of mercury weighs a lot.  It is shiny, like liquid aluminum foil.  And, it has a high viscosity or surface tension.  You can slide mercury around on a piece of paper and break into little drops and then put it back together, unless everyone decides to keep some of it, which they did (except for me because I was a future pastor).


You probably know: mercury is highly toxic.  Get mercury in your system and it will go to your brain and make you crazy (literally).  An online dictionary says that mercury poisoning causes, “. . .  tremors, emotional labiality, insomnia, dementia and hallucinations.”  Other than that, it is great for you.


Bitterness is like mercury.  It is tempting to play with – – dense.  We can stew for hours on end thinking about how we have been treated unfairly and how we hope that someday justice will be done.  We slide it around in our minds and put some in our pockets.  And, we are oh so foolish, because all the while it rots our bones (Proverbs 14:30).


It is foolish to treasure bitterness and yet so many times we do.

4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

We want the gerbil story.

Comment by MTB

It might be best for my ministry if I did not share it.

Comment by cdbrauns

That is an excellent comparison! Thank you for sharing. =)

Comment by MK

Bob thinks it is still a good illustration and should be kept in.

Comment by Mom

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