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Ending the Pretending

In a family full of facades, Esther Fleece, learned from a young age to keep secrets and fake her feelings. She shares how facing her past is the key to freedom. Read Transcript


[MUSIC PLAYING]

NARRATOR: In high school, Esther Fleece,

was known for being smart, cheerful, and fun,

but she was hiding a terrible secret.

Esther had been physically and emotionally abused for years.

By the time she was 15, her family

had left her to fend for herself.

She slept in the homes of several church members.

She wouldn't talk to anyone, even God, about her pain.

After college, she became a successful businesswoman.

But years of hiding behind achievements

and the strain of her double life became too heavy.

In her book, "No More Faking Fine," Esther

shares how she found freedom by getting real

with herself and God.

Well Esther is with us now live,

and it's great to have you here.

It's great to be with you.

Thank you for having me.

It's great to see your authentic smile.

It's a real smile.

It really is.

I've read the story, and I'm sorry.

It's horrific.

I just go, how in the world did you make it?

Here you are at 10 years old, and suddenly your father

starts to fall apart and become very violent.

What was that like for you?

Yeah, it was the unknown, really.

Especially when you have what you think is normal,

and then you realize that your normal's falling apart

overnight.

My father's mental condition continued to get worse,

but we weren't informed of what it was.

I was told he was sick.

So I thought, can I catch it?

But it really was a mental illness.

Did you ever find out?

To this day, I don't.

Medical records aren't released to children,

and I don't know what all of his issues were.

But it was painful, and I was a recipient

of a lot of that pain.

How did you process it?

At the time-- you know, I'm so glad you asked that,

because I didn't even reflect on it as a child.

But I do open the book with a story

when I was in the courtroom.

My father was there and had actually taken my diary out,

and was having my diary read in a courtroom.

And I was told to suck it up by the judge.

And so I thought--

GORDON ROBERTSON: The judge?

The judge.

I was crying, of course.

What little girl wouldn't be crying in a courtroom?

And the judge said, "You need to suck it up.

You need to answer the questions with a yes or no,"

because I guess I was saying, "yeah,"

and that's not permitted in the court of law.

So he told me, "You need to say yes or no.

Suck it up and answer the questions."

So Gordon, it was reinforced every time I read scripture,

and God was a judge.

I thought that was also a judge like the courtroom judge.

I thought I was supposed to suck it up.

I didn't think God had time for my grief.

I thought it made me a complainer.

So it took a lot of years of unlearning that,

but my process initially was just survival mode.

So you were just going to do anything

you could to get through it.

Sure.

And I didn't want to become a statistic.

By the time my father left--

You thought that?

Well maybe not at 10, but then when

my mother left at the age of 15, I certainly

didn't want to become a statistic of a girl that

just got pregnant in high school,

didn't finish her education.

Our audience just said, wait a minute.

Your father goes into mental illness when you're 10,

and then your mother leaves at 15.

Why?

I don't know the motives of either parent,

and I can't ascribe motives, but I know that they were broken.

And I know that I don't-- at least from my observation,

I don't think that they pursued health, and healing,

and wholeness that comes through Jesus Christ.

And so there was just cycles, generational cycles

of brokenness that unfortunately I was born into.

So I don't know all of the reasons,

but I do know that I was orphaned.

But because of scripture, I know that God meets orphans,

that he places the lonely in families,

and he did that with me.

So I was cut off from my entire biological family, no aunts,

uncles, and cousins to the rescue.

But it did give me an opportunity

to meet God, who cared to be my mother and father.

How were you in church?

We would be in child protective services, Gordon.

We would move from house to house in order to stay safe.

And there was always a church in the neighborhood,

and I would walk to church.

On your own?

God was just pursuing me at an early age.

So you initiated it?

I did.

I did.

My parents, we would go to church.

And that was part of why I talk about we can't fake fine

in the church.

Because we would go to church, we'd put on the happy face,

we'd put on the smiles.

But then I experienced such abuse at home.

It was very confusing.

So I do think my parents were at least introducing me

to the concept of church.

But I would say that it was God's great pursuit of me.

Even when I was being abandoned physically,

I was being pursued, spiritually speaking,

and He did save me at an early age.

I just found it really unusual that you at 15 are saying,

I want to go to church, and getting yourself

to church, even when you have this mental image that God

is a judge.

Yeah. well I didn't necessarily want to burden God

with my prayers, which is what this book's about.

I thought, even when I was then a follower of Jesus,

I thought God wanted my strengths,

and God wanted my good fruit, and He

wanted me to produce for Him.

What I missed out on was all those invitations in scripture

to come with my burdens, to come when I'm weary,

to give Him my grief.

And so that's what this book is.

It's an introduction for the reader

to say, whatever your heart condition is,

whatever your state of mind is, you can go to God with that.

He doesn't despise you when you're struggling.

That's actually where He does a great work.

So it took me many years, even though I

was in the church, many years to know

that God wanted my grief, too.

You, I think, compensated.

You became a super performer, not just an average.

You outperformed in anything you did.

Well, thank you.

Why?

What was driving that?

You know what's interesting?

On this side of things, I start looking at super performers

like, what are they trying to hide?

Because really, if we believe in grace,

that we are received, that we have a new identity in Christ,

we actually don't have to work so hard.

We do want to work to the glory of God,

but we don't place our identity in working.

And for me, it was a coping mechanism,

but it was just as unhealthy as if I would have picked up

a bottle of alcohol.

Because in the book of Psalms, David says, "Surely it

was in vain that I kept my heart pure."

and I realized that even my achievements,

if they were done with wrong motives,

if they were done just to hide this grief,

it was not fruit that God wanted.

He wanted to work even in my distress,

and I hope that this book is a product of that.

It's not so much my achievements,

but it's actually boasting, this is

where I didn't have it right, yet He still used me,

yet He still pursued me.

What was the key for you?

I sense that there was this real breakthrough moment.

There was.

And you asking that makes me think you had one yourself.

Yes.

I was achieving, and everything looked great

on the outside, Gordon.

And God allowed my biological father

to come back into my life 19 years later,

and it was a stalking situation.

I lived fearful every day.

Must have been terrible.

It was horrible.

And I felt like, God, I'm working for You.

I'm doing all these things for You.

Why is hardship still hitting my life?

I thought I've already checked off suffering.

I've already checked off hardship.

I'm an overcomer.

Why is this happening?

And it was through that process that I realized

that God's people suffer.

God's people face affliction.

It doesn't mean that God is absent or void.

God is with them in it.

And so I just started reading the Bible in a different way.

I realized that affliction is sometimes fruit.

It's sometimes evidence that we are God's children.

He was so kind to warn us that we

are going to go through trials of many kinds.

And so all of a sudden, there was this switch of,

God isn't doing this to me.

God isn't authoring suffering in my life.

Suffering is happening because we live in a fallen world,

but He was kind enough to warn me that it was going to happen,

and that He's given me this language called lament

to relate to Him in the midst of the suffering.

So it turns for my life truly, that I realized

I could go to God, even when I was broken, maybe especially,

especially when I was broken.

Yeah.

It's absolutely needed to do that.

My breakthrough was I had learned the Old Testament,

and the number of times the children of Israel complained

in the desert.

And I didn't realize that their complaints

were questioning the ability of God to solve the problem.

And so they were complaining about where they were,

and looking to go back to Egypt, as opposed to saying,

God is able to take care of this problem for us.

Wow.

And so my breakthrough was a wonderful minister

in India saying, well, let me read you Psalm 142:2.

"I poured out my complaint before the Lord."

And the great thing is when you pour it out before Him,

you leave it with Him.

Yes.

And it's honoring Him, saying, you're

able to take care of this.

It is.

You're with me.

You can see me through.

Yes.

The more we bottle it up, the more it affects us.

It affects us in really strange ways.

It does.

And really, the Christian worldview

is the only worldview that has a God who not only wants

to hear your cries like that, and your distress,

but He actually bottles your tears.

He has purpose for your tears when you cry.

And so that was just introducing a whole new worldview for me,

that God could not just meet me, but He cared for me

in that time of suffering.

"In this world, you'll have trouble, tribulation.

But be of good cheer.

I have overcome it."

If you want to learn more, the book, "No More Faking Fine"

is available wherever books are sold.

And Esther, thanks for your story.

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