Family can be a source of acceptance and joy.
A soft place to fall.
A Norman Rockwell, flickering firelight, gather-round-the banquet table experience.
You're nodding. Do you have one of those kinds of families? Know someone who does?
Grownup kids still fighting over who's getting Grandma's rocker when she goes. Brothers who haven't spoken in a decade. Sisters who'd rather stab each other in the back than let the other one have a bigger piece of cake.
Most of us have a little of both, so the story of Joseph and the brothers-from-Hell in Genesis 37 has a little something for everyone.
When jealousy had gotten the best of them, the Bible says "they stripped him of his brightly colored robe and threw him in a pit. The pit was empty, with no water in it."
Well, at least the well was dry. How thoughtful of them.
As a counselor, I deal often with people who know exactly what it feels like to be stripped of every ounce of their dignity and thrown in the pit by the people who were supposed to love them.
The problem is that often their story ends in the pit. They've decided to live there permanently, stripped of everything that makes life livable, abiding in a dark place void of anything that makes it useful.
The greatest lesson from Joseph's story is what he allowed God to do with the pit. He didn't stay there. He went somewhere worse.
Not only was he stripped of identity and respect, but he became a slave in a foreign land. Yet, the Bible makes sure to tell us that God was with him. Even there.
The secret is that he refused to let others dictate his value.
He was told by everyone in his world that he was nothing. A slave. A reject. An outcast. They took his fancy coat, the symbol of his identity, but they could not take his worth because that is determined only by God.
He knew God was for him and that was enough. You know the rest. With God's blessing on him, he remained humble and faithful to his Lord and God set him up as a ruler over all of Egypt.
Had he not remained steadfast in his faith while in the pit, God could never have used him when he climbed out. But he trusted what he could not see and God honors that kind of faith.
What about you? Do you still bear the scars of a less-than-perfect family? Are you wearing them as a label, defining who you can be?
Or are you still in the pit, wondering if anyone knows you're down there? Have you chosen to stay there, allowing others to determine your value?
They can strip you of everything else, but no one can take your value because that is already set by God.
Listen to my favorite worship leader put it a different way and remember that if God is for you, no one can be against you.