When my children were little, it was a common occurrence to find their playdough containers partially open, the colorful dough hardened and crumbling. I would remind them endlessly to close the lids, but their busy little minds would soon forget. Finances were tight and purchasing new dough each time was not practical, which left me searching for ways to revive the crusty dough instead.

A tender heart left uncovered in the elements can easily harden too. We can start on a new assignment with such tenderness for the people we have been called to serve. Over time difficult circumstances, hurtful people, discontentment, or loneliness take their toll, slowly drying us out. Instead of being a pliable tool for God to use, we can become brittle–hard, rigid, and easily wounded.

I found this to be the case as our family began ministering at a new church. I was so full of love for our people, attentive to the Holy Spirit’s voice and willing to do whatever was asked. But then, as the months passed, it become more difficult to keep that fervor. Things got hard. People complained, friends left, tithing decreased and I began to recognize signs of heart dehydration.

Like the playdough, there is a process to becoming soft again. Remaining effective in my purpose requires that I regularly open and scrutinize the contents within. When I honestly inspected my condition, it caused me to ask a few questions.

What does my heart look like when it is soft?
A soft heart reveals traits of humility, gentleness, and peace. I notice a genuine consideration for others, offering encouragement instead of tearing down. My heart’s posture is poised to do good rather than operating out of pride or jealousy.

What are the signs that I have been hardening?
On the contrary, the path of a hardened heart often leads me back to old habits. Perhaps I become foolish or rash, making quick decisions out of emotion. Desires, apart from God’s design, steadily take root. Other times, I avoid or disobedient to what God has asked of me. Upon closer examination, envy or resentment are exposed.

How do I become moldable once more?
This question provoked a search for truth in God’s Word where I discovered insights within Titus 3:4-6.

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 
he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done,
but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing
of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out
on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,
Applying warmth from your hands is the first step in refreshing unyielding clay. In the same way, the warmth of His kindness and love prepares me. His tenderness begins the healing my heart desperately needs.

Water performs wonders with playdough, and I find that His work within me begins with a form of washing as well. When I confess, I open, giving Him permission to pour his cleansing water over me. Paul describes it in the text as “the washing of rebirth”. Because of God’s great mercy, I can start afresh.

Then, He adds a softening agent, similar to the liquid diluent (a fancy pottery term) that I would use with stiffened clay. God’s softening agent is the Holy Spirit, which provides “renewal” and scripture tells us that “he pours it out on us generously”.

And the result is a refreshed heart.

With newness, I can continue to serve God in whatever form or shape he requires. Easily moldable, readily moveable and allowing Him to sculpt me into the image of Jesus.


Angela Malloy is a pastor’s wife, serving with her husband Patrick, at Living Stones Church in South Bend, Indiana. She is a homeschooling and chauffer mom to four sweethearts. While regularly satisfying her cravings for blueberry coffee, you will often find her nose in a good book, singing and dancing around the kitchen or organizing and labeling strange places (such as her refrigerator). Her desire is to walk beside other imperfect women, as they strengthen their relationship with God and with each other.