No More Faking Fine
WEARING THE MASK
Esther Fleece had a perfectly normal family. But things began to change with the progression her father’s mental illness. “While it felt like my family had disintegrated overnight, it had been a decade of disaster in the making,” said Esther. Her father became more and more irrational and eventually violent. By age 10, Esther, her mother, and her brother moved from house to house in order to stay safe.
Over the next several years, her father was in and out of jail. He would try to find Esther and her family each time he was released. Meanwhile, her mother began to date a man named Mike. Esther never trusted Mike and often caught him in lies. She recorded each time she caught him not telling the truth.
“I put together color coded charts, detailing Mike’s inconsistencies and daily activities,” she said. “Nobody knew I was recording these things.” One night when Mike and her mother were arguing, she interrupted the argument and showed the evidence that Mike was cheating. Mike left Esther’s mom and married someone else. Esther’s mom never forgave her. Her relationship with her mother had been strained, but that incident pushed things over the edge. Esther’s mom blamed her for Mike leaving.
Throughout her teens, Esther desperately wanted her mother’s approval so she worked hard to be a good kid. She was involved in youth group, got great report cards, and became a cheerleader, but her mother treated her even worse. “If I didn’t do the dishes thirty minutes after dinner, she yelled and threatened to call the police. She accused me of being crazy and loaded me into the car and admitted me into a psychiatric ward. I was there for a week. When released, I went home because I didn’t know where else to go. I decided I would never bother anyone with my cries again. Even God. Especially God.”
Esther kept hiding behind her achievements. She was a stellar student and was involved in extra curricular activities including student government throughout high school and college. Nothing helped, and by the time Esther was 15 her mother had abandoned her. She lived in the homes of various church members over the years.
After college, she climbed the corporate ladder. She went from an entry-level position at her company to becoming vice president at just 25. Then she helped launch a sister company and became the first female partner. After that, she joined a well-known Christian ministry as millennial spokesperson. CNN named her one of “5 Women in Religion to Watch” and Christianity Today featured her among their list of “Top Women Shaping the Church and Culture.”
Esther also had a boyfriend that she felt was “the one.” She thought she had heard God and that they would be married, but the relationship fell apart. Esther was devastated. She felt that she had wasted years praying for the wrong thing and doubted her ability to hear God. She buried her hurts even deeper. “I went from vowing to never allow myself to be that vulnerable again to pushing ahead and moving on as if nothing ever happened,” she said. “I wrote off romantic relationships for almost a decade after this one did not pan out.”
Esther’s father, who still struggled with mental illness, began showing up at her home and job, stalking her. She had gone to counseling before and felt it was now time to go again. Until this point, she hadn’t truly gone to God about her pain. (MORE)
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“I didn’t want God to see me as a complainer, and so I didn’t bother Him with my troubles,” she said. This time, in counseling, she gave herself permission to get real with God. It was through this process of lamenting that she found healing.
LEARNING TO LAMENT
Esther says lamenting is the process of asking questions and taking our fears to God. She says we can ask God questions like, “Why?” “How long?” and “Where are You?” Esther says that lament is expressing honest emotions to God when life is not going as planned. “Whether we’re hurt, frustrated, confused, betrayed, overwhelmed, sad or disappointed, lament is the language God has given us to talk to Him right in the middle of life’s messes… it is a prayer to which God always responds,” says Esther.
Esther began her lamenting process one night in a hotel room. Her counselor had given her the homework assignment to honestly pray to God. “I thought I was going to disappoint God because I didn’t have parents who listened to my laments,” she said. She didn’t know if God would hear her. “Have I lost your favor?” She wondered. “Are You ever going to be compassionate to me again?” The number 77 popped up in her mind. Since she had been reading Psalms, she opened up to Psalm 77. She read that David was lamenting in that Psalm and had the same questions she did. David even had to deal with a stalker (Saul). She gave herself permission to lament to God.
Esther says, sometimes we look at people who lament as if they are not strong in their faith, but the truth is every Christian should have a lament as part of his or her prayer time. If we don’t lament for ourselves, we should for someone else. Furthermore, lamenting isn’t just for a person who faces really difficult circumstances, but it is also for everyday people. For instance, the suburban mom who doesn’t have the marriage that she thought she would have needs to lament. It’s not wasting God’s time, and it’s not complaining,
**NOTES** Esther married her husband Joel two months ago!! She had shut her heart down for years, but once she was able to lament, she had a fuller relationship with God. She was able to let someone in, realizing that if it didn’t work out, it wasn’t punishment from God. There was no heavy yoke of pressure for the relationship to work or for him to be marriage material. Esther was healed before dating Joel.