Have you ever felt stripped of the things that define you? Most of us have experienced that sudden change of roles: we're laid off from work, move to another city, or become empty nesters. Change is painful!
This has been my experience over the past year. A lot of things in which I found my identity, were stripped away. A change of circumstances made homeschooling no longer feasible; almost simultaneously, my husband lost his job as a pastor, and to top things off, I experienced first-hand how destructive rumors can be. I had arrogantly thought that being a homeschooling pastor's wife defined who I am. It took God stripping me of these things, like a piece of clothing, to realize that these things don't really define us in the first place..
I believe this is also what happened to Joseph when he was stripped of his coat of many colors (Gen. 37:23). This robe was more than a piece of clothing to him. It defined Joseph as the favorite son, which in turn caused this son of Jacob to wrap himself in pride, arrogance, and self-reliance. In taking this coat, Joseph's brothers stripped him of everything he prided himself in: his role, his wealth, and his relationships. Later, he underwent more stripping, when he fled from Potiphar's wife, leaving his garment in her hands and his good reputation in ruins (Gen. 39:12).
God, in His mercy, brought Joseph to a place of complete abandonment from people and without any earthly resources to rely upon. "But God was with Joseph" (Gen 39:21). In the dungeon, Joseph was able to learn invaluable lessons from God. When he emerged, Joseph put on a new garment to stand before Pharaoh. First and foremost he clothed himself with humility, approaching Pharaoh with an "it is not in me" kind of attitude (Gen. 41:16). Joseph no longer defined himself by who he was and what he could do, but by who God is and what He can do.
In the same way, God taught me that my identity does not come from how well I perform as a wife or homeschool-mom, nor does it hinge on my reputation. What really defines and simultaneously frees me is the recognition that I am absolutely helpless without God. Apart from Him I can do nothing (John 15:5).
When we go through seasons of feeling completely stripped of the things that we thought defined us, God wants us to learn to find our value in Him.
"Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." (1 Peter 5:5)