I first heard these two words “Soft Places” tucked together in “Savor” a devotional by Shauna Niequist and I have never forgotten them. As I read these words, they formed a picture in my mind that touched my heart with warmth and a sense of safety that I had experienced in different hard times in my life; and it made me pause, reflect and give thanks for my “soft places”. We all have had hard times, and when we do we often look for those soft places, even if just for a few hours.
That soft place can be a place to rest, enjoy a beverage with a listening ear or maybe just be silent. But that place needs to be free from the pricks of questions or judgment, it needs to be a “soft place” of unconditional love and acceptance.
Soft places are found with familiar and unfamiliar places and people. For some it maybe with a family member, neighbor or ministry friend. We each seek our soft places out with great care and honesty, and they are as different as the hard times we experience in our journey of life.
Hard times are when we experience a period of great difficulty. It can be financial, spiritual, or a personal or health struggle. Hard times are defined by time, or circumstance that we are bothered, annoyed or harassed without an immediate end in sight.
Hard times normally are not something we can walk away from easily but that we must needs go through; with the objective to harden us in some way that will make us give up.
It is the Soft Places that enable us to go the distance, not give up and come out on the other end better, not bitter and more focused on living with purpose and intention.
Finding that soft place in the storm of hardness is such a treasure, a joy and a real feeling of genuine concern, care and acceptance. One of my soft places is chatting with my sister. As soon as she hears me say, “Hey, do you have a minute?” I hear and feel the love and acceptance to let me be me and the sharp edges of the hardness that are pressing into me withdraw and I find myself smiling more and more as the clock ticks by in our conversation.
Understand me, the circumstances have not changed but that soft place of her voice embraces me as it applies care to the wounds. As I sit within that soft place of love, my strength begins to be restored and that hard place is still present, but I have found more of what is in me that can stand against the hardness that I could not find before finding that soft place.
Another soft place for me is my “comfy chair”. On days that I feel like the hard places are winning, I backup into my relationship with God and rest in my “comfy chair”. I do not talk, I worship Him. I do not complain and show Him my wounds, I worship. Worship is the blanket I pull up over me in my comfy chair that makes it my soft place of healing and restoration.
What are your soft places? We need to treasure them, be grateful for them because you and I know that we will need them again and again as we walk out of our journey of life.
As great as these soft places are for us, the even greater joy is when we learn and become a soft place for someone else. A soft place has boundaries yet it also is designed to supply what is needed in hard times. It does not solve the problem, it comforts and strengthens the warrior that needs to return to that hard place awaiting their change to come.
Soft places are made of various virtues and attributes, here are just a few:
Ability to Listen: In hard times, listening is difficult to find with those that are in a hard time with you. Soft places offer the pillow of a listening ear with a heart of no condemnation for a heavy, weary heart. A secret to listening is to not to let it enter the brain but to let it pass through the heart. Our brain will try and give resolution, which is not the purpose of a soft place. So when we let the words move through the heart, you will release unconditional love, which is the softest place to rest in.
Being Selfless: It is important to remember that when you truly want to help others, it is not about you! Our initial reaction may be to compare their hard place to ours, but don’t do that, remember it is not about us. A “soft place” offering is not about how we came through, it is giving them a place to obtain softness, not resolution. Be selfless enough to let them talk or not talk, and just hover to cover while they take a pause in life.
Being Patient: As a soft place known by others, it means that people will sometimes come looking for that soft place time and time and time again. Maybe nothing has changed for them since the last pause in your presence, but let them know it is okay. A true “soft place” has no visitation limit. Stop for coffee as often as you want. Sit on my porch in the evening with my family as often as you need. Soft places equal open spaces; be it a natural space or a heart space.
As I close this look at soft places in hard times, it is my desire to inspire you to take the following steps to partake or provide these precious soft places with integrity.
Express gratitude for your soft places.
Don’t take advantage of your soft places.
Don’t offer your soft place to someone else without permission.
Keep all conversations confidential.
Do Self-care so that you can continue to be that soft place.
Spend time with God to keep your heart soft for His use.