My daughter and I were walking into the grocery store when we saw a little boy, possibly around 6-7 years old, pushing a cart laden with food alongside his mother. As the cart went past a rounded curb, the little boy stumbled, most likely because he was being silly. I saw him look up at his mother and she scowled at him. She poured contempt and shame on him through a single glance that communicated, “You are so stupid” or “You are so disgusting.” By the shamed and crushed look on that little boy’s face, it was apparent that he agreed with her. My heart cracked open for that little boy.

The fact that the little boy immediately looked at his mother indicated to me that this wasn’t an isolated incident and the “look” he got was usually negative. In that moment, a new strategy or the strengthening of an old strategy was born or deepened in him. And his young, playful heart that was intended to be carefree and silly, was wounded by the scowl from his mother.

As sadness overwhelmed me, I remembered the time my laugh was wrongly interpreted as shame and contempt. I was taking care of my niece who was four at the time. She also did something silly and fell against a couch. I knew she wasn’t hurt and the way she fell was sorta comical. And because she was and is a beautiful little girl, I laughed in delight.

But she recoiled and hung her head in shame. She misinterpreted my delight as derision. But I was delighting in her because even when she fell, she was beautiful and precious. Years later, when she was older, I apologized to her and asked her to forgive me.

Some time ago I talked with a woman at a women’s retreat and she shared how her grandfather, who she rarely saw, would wink at her almost continuously during the visit. Because she was already being sexually abused, she recoiled. Her grandfather was delighting in her and never made any wrong advances toward her. Yet she felt uncomfortable. Her experiences warned her, yet his actions were innocent.

How sad that she couldn’t receive his delight. He died young and thus there was no opportunity for her to know his delight in her.

I wonder if sometimes we misinterpret God’s wink and His laugh. He delights in us and although He’ll discipline us when we sin, He intends to draw us closer to Him, not shame us away from Him. Satan’s tactic is to make us shrink in shame; God wants to woo us closer to His forgiving heart.

Satan whispers, “You are stupid and shameful because you sinned. There’s no hope. You might as well give up.” But our loving Lord calls, “You are precious and beautiful to me even though you’ve sinned. There is hope because I want to forgive your sin. Come to me and receive my cleansing. I know you’ll get better in my power.”

I hope that little boy has found someone who delights in him even when he’s silly. My own four-year-old grandson has many around him who delight in him even when he’s silly. And he’s silly a lot! Likewise, God knows our frame; He knows that we are but dust, therefore, He has compassion upon us (Psalm 103:13-14). And He never scowls!