JOY!: On the line, I have Esther Fleece. Esther, before I even start talking about all the things you get up to, and your amazing new book…when I saw that CNN had voted you as one of the top five women in religion to watch, I suddenly realized this woman means business!
Esther: Well, I appreciate that! I’m not quite sure how I got that, but that was certainly an honour.
JOY!: So, they haven’t contacted you, and asked you to do something to get you into that place. They have just been keeping an eye on all your movements and decided…wow, you are a mover and a shaker!
Esther: I think so, and you know, back in one of my jobs…I was working for a non-profit that had a kind of a global presence, and they had asked for me to build relationships with the media, because a lot of Christians are often misunderstood when it comes to what’s being communicated and articulated in the media. And so, I just began building relationships with people that have a very different worldview than I did and, you know what? That ended up being a real, authentic, friendship, and there was respect on both sides, even though they don’t necessarily align with my world, so, it was a great honour.
JOY!: Yeah, and it’s so great to take what we believe, and the Kingdom, into the marketplace, and to be influential at that level, which I can see you are clearly doing, and that’s really what we’ve been called to do as believers.
Esther: I think so, and I find great joy in doing it, instead of looking at people, and thinking, you know, they don’t understand me. I really try to be a translator of ‘here’s what we believe’, and it gives us an opportunity to share the hope that we have. So, I love being a translator in the secular marketplace.
JOY!: Esther, I have a friend who has been going through a really, really, tough time and she said to me, when we had a conversation one day, she said…” if another person tells me everything is going to be alright, I’m going to punch them in the face.” That was – more or less – what she said, and I’m paraphrasing. Just, for somebody who understands and who writes about this kind of thing, when you’re really in the thick of it, that’s the last thing you need to hear.
Esther: You know, it’s true. And, we see that in the Bible, with the book of Job. You know, Job was losing everything, not just wealth and his livestock, but he was losing his family members. He was in deep distress, and it says that his friends came to meet with him, and, for the first seven days, they grieved with him. That his grief was so overwhelming, that they sat and just – they didn’t know what to say, and God never rebukes that. What God ends up rebuking are the words that his friends end up speaking when Job is in grief. So, I think that there’s an example in Scripture that, when grief hits, it’s not the time to offer a theology lesson, and it’s not the time to start telling people how they need to suck it up and move on, and get past their pain, or how God will use all things for the good. It’s time to sit and offer the ministry of presence, and weep with those who are weeping.
JOY!: And that’s really the essence of ‘No More Faking Fine’ – the book that you’ve completed, Esther. We need to move beyond just words that don’t really have meaning, because somebody who’s in a better space gets it, and they’re not feeling that distress, or that hopelessness. You speak a lot about ‘lament’. Now when I say the word ‘lament’, I think of a sad song. I probably don’t understand it as you do, so please, help us understand lamenting, and how that works in all of this.
Esther: Yes, a lament is a cry of your heart. It’s an expression of grief. It might be what’s inside of you, that you often feel embarrassed saying out loud, or praying out loud. But, throughout the book, I’m hopefully describing lament as an expression of grief that God meets you in. The reason why is that, I don’t see any place in Scripture where God is not moved by a lamenting prayer. It says He draws near to the broken hearted; He offers comfort for those who need it; He will give you peace that transcends understanding, but we must, first, bring our lament to Him. We must, first, let him know that we’re in need. So, I think, lament is a part of every Christian’s vocabulary, here on Earth and, if we’re not in a current lamenting season, we will be entering one in the future, or we need to look at our neighbours, who might be lamenting, themselves. So, I think that it’s a part of Grace and growing, and it’s a part of the cry that’s going to be here on this side of the fall, until we are restored to God, and until He returns to us.
JOY!: But, a lament – is it a subjective thing, a personal thing? And one can’t tell somebody how to do it. So, is it just a very personal cry? The way that you would do it would differ from mine, but it would be as necessary?
Esther: I’m so glad you asked that question, because I think that you’re right. I think that, you know, what might cause me to lament, might not cause my neighbour to lament. And, I think that’s how we start trying to move people past lament, and we offer them kind of shallow accolades of “well, it’ll just get better” or “well, look at the good things that you have going on in your life.” But, you know I had a friend that just recently miscarried her baby, and she has three beautiful children, but she miscarried her baby. And, everyone kept saying to her: “well, at least you have three kids…but God blessed you with three kids.” But, the reality is that she was lamenting the loss of her child – there was grief there. And God cared about her grief, and I do believe God was grieving with her, because God does grieve with death. Death was not a part of the original plan, and so, I think, that we need to start offering more Grace to our neighbours; to our co-workers; maybe even to our spouses, that if they are in a lament, or if they are expressing grief, our job is to not minimise that, or to wish them out of it, our job is to remind them that God hears their cry.
JOY!: In your book, Esther, ‘No More Faking Fine’, you seem to suggest that we try to keep everything bottled up, or we try to hide it from God, which is quite silly because we believe He’s an all-knowing God. So, we understand that He knows everything, yet we seem to get stuck in this mental block, and then we go and try to hide the truth of what we are feeling, and what we’re experiencing, from God. And, you are saying, just stop it – He knows anyway, just be free to feel bleugh – I can’t think of another way of doing it – but just to have peace in that space.
Esther: Absolutely and you know, Brad I talk about in the book where, I, you know, after walking with God for many years, I do have a love for the Scriptures, and I would study them and I know that it says to rejoice always. And I know that it says to always give thanks, and I know that it says to never be anxious, and all those things are true. But, I was missing the context in which these verses are written. I was looking at the Book of Lamentations and I was seeing: ‘Great is your Faithfulness!’ and I was skipping over all the laments that led this person, Jeremiah, to be able to say that. And, many times in Scripture we’re taught too, that these trials are light and momentary, but it’s when people are facing extreme persecution. And so, I think that we need to look at Scripture in its entirety. That, yes, we can rejoice always and we can be glad, but it’s also: we are sorrowful and rejoicing. We are also aware of the distress, and the disappointment, and the sin that’s in our own life, and the sin that’s in the world around us. And so, that’s why I think that it’s a both and – I don’t think any Christian is going to get to a place in their spiritual walk, where they don’t have to lament. I think the more you walk with God, the more you’re in tune with the people that are hurting around you, and the more you’re in tune with God’s laments himself. I think it’s a key part of the Scriptures that, somehow, we’re missing in our Christian churches and in our Christian language.
JOY!: Right. Now, Esther, hearing what we’re talking about, a listener might be saying I think I need to get my hands on ‘No More Faking Fine’. Absolutely! But, how does when to use the book practically? I mean, how does one consume it and then use it practically to move through to a space of freedom?
Esther: You know I have a dear friend of mine, and she had recently gone through a divorce, and she is a prominent ministry leader, and she never thought she would be divorced. It’s been heart-breaking, and she picked up the book, and there are prayers at the end of every chapter. And, she just told me, you know, “it gave me permission that I can pray these things…that I can cry out ‘God, where are you? Why has this happened? God, is it always going to be this painful?’” And so, she used the book as just a tool to help teach her how to pray, when she was in distress. You know, for another person, they might really take some courage and the third section of the book is ‘What Good Things Come Out of a Lament?” Because, I think the enemy likes to cause us to be afraid to enter a lamenting season. We might think if we open that up, we might never stop crying, or we might not be able to pull ourselves together before we go to work. But, there are great jewels that God gives to us – He gives us a new song of praise; He gives us His strength; He gives us a peace that transcends understanding, when we lament. And so, some people might pick up this book and just need hope that lament is not going to be the final song.
JOY!: And Esther, would it be fair to say that, once you’ve worked through ‘No More Faking Fine’, and you’ve dealt with a so much of the past and the present, possibly too. That, once you’re done with it, you are wiser and smarter, and suddenly you start to realize that I haven’t dealt with everything, and then go back and go through the book a second, or even, a third time. Do you see it working like that?
Esther: I sure do, and I’ve had most people reach out to me saying that they’re reading the book very slowly, because it is kind of a new message for them. You know, I think when we learn a new language… you know, if I’m going to take on learning French, it’s going to take me some time. It’s not going to be real comfortable in the beginning, and I might need to even immerse myself in the French culture, to be able to speak it more fluently, and so it is with lament. If we’ve been in the church that has taught us to just suck it up and fake fine, this is going to be a new way that God’s going to wire us – that He’s going to be giving us permission to cry our hearts out to Him. So, many people are reading the books slowly, so that they can process it and digest it, and allow God to speak to them in their own season of need.
JOY!: And, what’s next for you? Anything else on the horizon? Once we get moving through ‘No More Faking Fine’, I start to realise this Esther Fleece is the real deal. We need more – what have you got for us?
Esther: Oh, I appreciate that. You know, for right now, we have on the website, www.estherfleece.com, there’s a lament page, where we’re asking people to share their testimony. Because, you know, I do realize that my testimony is not the same as everyone else’s, and that’s the beauty of God. And so, I do think that there is a bit of a movement going on, where people are saying: “Wait, I’m going to stop faking fine too!” And so, my role, right now, is to just be a facilitator of that, and to help create just, I guess, a model of ‘this is what it means to not be OK and it’s OK to not be OK’. So, I’m doing quite a bit of speaking for now – I’d love to get to South Africa. But, I’m doing quite a bit of speaking and writing, and not sure what that what the future holds, but I know that this new language of lament is a good guide to get me to walk through whatever comes my way.
JOY!: It’s Esther Fleece, international speaker and writer on millennials and faith leadership, and family, and voted by CNN as one of the top five women in religion to watch, and writer of ‘No More Faking Fine’. What a pleasure spending time with you, this has been great.
Esther: Thank you for having me on.
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