Renata is a girl with a history of foster families, abuse, and addiction. She became “my assignment” when I was asked by church leadership to love her. She’s very needy, and as drug addicts often are, very self-absorbed. No amount of encouragement and planning and NA meetings have been able to help her break orbit from old patterns.
Her demands on my time and resources have frustrated me. I had to refuse some requests because they were so unreasonable. Disgusted in all of this, I made the mistake of trying harder to love Renata. I knew I was supposed to love her, but honestly, I secretly felt that if she moved out of state like she was talking about, it’d be a relief because she would no longer be my concern. So I gritted my teeth and determined to “love her like Jesus.”
One day the Lord pointed out Romans 5:5 to me: “the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us (NASB).” The KJV says “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost.” He reminded me that it was not for me to try harder to love Renata – nor any of the other challenging people in my life. Rather, I was simply to ask for a baptism of love for her by the Holy Spirit.
I prayed for a baptism of love as I drove to pick her up for a lunch date one day. When she got in the car, I was amazed at the tenderness I felt toward her, the genuine concern. When she asked me for some cash to cover her meal, I didn’t get annoyed when she assured me for the tenth time she’d pay me back. Most of all, when we prayed together on the way back afterward, the praying wasn’t mumbling faint and obscure hopes toward the sky as it had been. It was charged – Spirit-filled, powerful.
She’s had a big setback in the last month and looks further away from being stable than ever. When I heard this news, my reaction was to throw my hands up in the air and say “I give up. She’s had a gazillion chances.” But last night, while I was absorbed with something else, the Spirit of God broke into my thoughts and led me to pray for Renata in faith and in fierce compassion for her liberation. “What if this were your daughter that was lost,” He said to me. “Would you not want everyone you know pulling out all the stops to get her back to you? Would you not be desperate to see her healed? This is how I feel about My daughter.”
The very first fruit of the Spirit mentioned is love (Galatians 5:22). While I teach these to my children and can rattle them off by heart, I don’t always remember right away that these are fruits of the Spirit, not of the flesh. It is not up to me to conjure up love, to put on a happy face for joy, to talk myself into peace.
God has reminded me trough Renata that I am not to try harder. I am simply to abide in the vine (John 15:4) and ask for more of the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13). And I am believing for a complete and dramatic breakthrough for her.