I first heard the term “parent shopping” in a book about adoption. It seemed strange to me at the time, but that was before I met my daughter. Let me start with a definition. Parent shopping is when a child actively engages other people, strangers included, in a friendly and affectionate manner in order to test them out as potential parents while often ignoring or acting defiantly to their own parents. They seem to think it wise to have a back-up caregiver on hand, just in case.
My daughter can turn on the charm . . . when she wants to. Sometimes she lays it on thick when she meets someone new or when she doesn’t like the limits I have established. She learned at a tender age how to capture the attention of teenagers and adults and they are more than willing to comply with her every wish. We can be at dinner, the grocery store or one of my older kid’s sporting events and our little lady will be saying hi, grabbing hands and leading people about or even trying to hug people. “She is so friendly!”, people say. I smile, but inside I sigh. I know that it is all superficial. Yeah, she’s friendly, but in my heart I know that this is not a healthy behavior. She resists true intimacy like the plague. Just try to pick her up and hold her and you will immediately see what I mean. She squirms her way out of people’s arms faster than a gopher slips down a hole. I can see what she can not see. Her parent shopping activity is rooted in distrust.
My heart aches when she acts this way. I feel rejected, but more than that, I ache for her. She is actively searching for something that is right in front of her. She just can’t see it. All the love, all the security and all the help she needs surrounds her, and yet, she still looks to perfect strangers for love that she will not accept from her own family. Day after day, I am there, holding her, feeding her, bathing her, tucking her in at night and, still, she won’t completely trust me. Still, I am the one that she pushes away. Still, she looks in vain for what she needs only to receive.
How like my daughter am I when I look to other things instead of trusting in my Father? From the beginning of time, His love for me was firmly established. All along, He knew me, loved me and called me His own. Even though He knew I would evidence my distrust in actions like worry, impatience and disobedience, He never wavered in His love for me. He knew I would need redemption. He knew my insatiable heart would look at every other viable option only to be disappointed. Still, He held out His arms to me and was willing to love me and redeem me through the blood of Jesus Christ.
My part? Receive His love and surrender my autonomy to His Lordship. He is sovereign and my trust is never misplaced when it rests on Him. Just as I long for my daughter to fully trust in my love and provision for her, our heavenly Father longs for us to be confident in His ability to lead us, even when He leads us through hardship. Yes, even then, it is His love that propels us onward through the trials that develop perseverance, proven character and hope . . .
“And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5 : 3-5 NASB
Hope does not disappoint when it is God who gives it. If we will quit our “parent shopping” and lean fully on Him we will never be disappointed. He will never leave us or forsake us. We do not need to worry and look anxiously about. We can have peace and assurance in Him. He will uphold us. Praise be to God for His faithfulness and patience throughout all generations! May we learn to believe that He alone is worthy of our confidence.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4: 6-7 NASB