I've been thinking of this for a few weeks now but not had the chance to write.
When I lived in Basildon in the 90's, one of my best friends was a Leader of a Church there.
I used to visit him regularly in his office and amongst all the books and paraphernalia on his shelves there above his desk, stuck on the wall with a bit of blue tack was a tiny picture of an African child sitting on a blue bucket in a dusty dirt street.
I asked him about it once and he told me this boy was looking for food, probably he'd walked miles with his bucket to try and find some aid. His parents were probably dead with starvation in this droughted location. The boy himself would probably have died a few hours after the photo had been taken.
He said sometimes he looked at the photo and just cried.
He kept it there on the wall to stay soft.
Over the years I've thought a lot about that conversation.
I've noticed that there are times when things are going so well, you feel like your on cloud 9, God's blessing seems so rich, you have a smile on your face and joy in your heart and yet... with all these good things going on it always seems to be the time you become calloused and hardened to the needs around you.
It's the time I need to be careful, to stay soft.
Staying soft isn't about being a push over, or a weakling. It's about having a tender heart. When meat is tenderized, it's done so by having a big steel mallet pound it again and again, imagine that happening to your heart. It would be so bruised and tender that the slightest feather touch would cause you to wince and clutch your chest. That is what being tender to the Spirit is all about. Staying soft so that his merest touch stops you in your tracks.
I use many means to stay soft. Memories. Songs. Films. Pictures.
Oswald Chambers says to let memories do their work in you. They can teach and tenderize you to God. I've found that it's true, and for me a hard pounding on my heart.
Find your hearts soft spot and pound it.