Speaker and author Juana Mikels shares the dramatic story of how she abandoned her marriage after three years, found faith in Jesus Christ and reconciled with her husband, with the two of them recently celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary. (Part 1 of 2)
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Jim Daly: I'm Jim Daly and on today's "Focus on the Family," we're gonna hear the story of one couple's difficult marriage and why, after three and a half years, the wife, Juana, left this note for her husband.
Juana Mikels (reading): Dear Terry, I have decided to move out and am staying with a girlfriend. I cannot be married any longer with all the uncertainty that I feel. I'm sorry that our marriage did not work out. You don't need to try to contact me. I'll be in touch in a couple of weeks to get the rest of my things. I do hope the best for you. Juana.
End of Teaser
Jim: That note sounds desperate and hopeless and that's Juana Mikels and we're gonna hear more from her in just a moment. The good news is, that Juana and her husband, Terry, did reconcile their relationship, with the Lord's help, but it was a painful journey and I want you to hear this journey, because it will give you hope, especially if you're suffering in your marriage.
John Fuller: And Jim, I know that there are couples, there are husbands and wives listening who are right there. They're … they … they resonated with that note. You've reached that point where you've had enough. There's just too much pain and anger and there's no forgiveness. And those are serious problems and we would urge you to stop and listen to the program today.
Jim: And not only that, we're here to help you. We have a team of caring Christian counselors who are there for you and if you're in a tough spot in your marriage, after hearing the program today, if you need help, some direction, that is why Focus on the Family is here and that's why so many supporters send their donations to Focus on the Family, is to be the help that you need in this moment.
John: And our number here to reach one of our counseling team members is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY: 800-232-6459. We also have counselor referral tool and more details at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio. And Jim, another resource that we should mention is our Hope Restored outreach.
Jim: John, I'm glad you did that, because that's something that we've been doing now for the last couple years, Hope Restored in Branson, Missouri. Gary Smalley, the late Gary Smalley, started that program. Greg Smalley, who now works at Focus continued that program and now it is part of Focus on the Family.
And this is an intensive counseling environment where couples who are the brink of divorce, some of them have already signed the divorce papers, they can go to this intensive environment over a four- to five-day period and they have, a post two-year counseling touch, they have an 84/6 percent success rate. So, if you're in that desperate situation, do call us, because it is worth your time to save your relationship.
Jim: Now with all that said finally, Juana, I want to welcome you to "Focus on the Family."
Juana: Thank you.
Jim: You are one brave soul, because these are the kinds of things and discussions that many couples, particularly Christian couples, are gonna hide because it's uncomfortable to talk about this stuff, even though you have now reconciled. Um … but those were some dark years for you.
Let's start in that place where you married. You were both successful. Uh … you were working for companies on the fast track and uh … set that background for us. Why did you think you were gonna make it in the first place? Why'd you say yes when Terry asked you to marry him?
Juana: Well, I was in love. We had met during college. He was my college sweetheart and we married right after college, and we really had everything a young couple would want. We had just built a home. We had great jobs with Fortune 500 companies. We had lots of friends that settled in Raleigh where we both went to school. When we were freshly married, it was like playing house and we really enjoyed those early days.
Jim: Juana, let me ask you this. Did you and Terry have premarital counseling, which at Focus we believe in. There's a lot of research that shows that if you have 10 hours minimum, it really reduces the chance of divorce. But how did you and Terry go about premarital counseling?
Juana: We had some, just a couple hours I would say with my home pastor. I wish, Jim, we had, had so much more.
Jim: Was um … yeah, it wasn't sufficient. That's the point and I think that's one of the great things that we have Ready to Wed, which I think is one of the best tools at Focus now for churches to use actually. Um … um … we'll supply that to the churches, so they can have young couples go through at least 10 hours of premarital counseling, which will reduce the incidence of divorce in those couples and it's brilliant.
So, you were getting married. You had kind of optimism. You were both very successful, attractive couple. It was all seemingly movin' in the right direction. What pain was underlying that? Because I'm sure people would look at you and Terry from the outside and think, "Oh, what a great couple. They got it all together."
Juana: And it as fun. In those early days it was like playing house. We had a little kitty where we kept money wh … that we had been given as a wedding present and really, it was two years into the marriage that I became disillusioned.
Jim: And … and how? What were those?
Juana: Well, it was typically on Saturday morning because I really didn't have any hobbies. Terry did. He'd grown up from a young child playing golf and working on MGs and he would clean his car and wash his MG and put his golf clubs in and he'd be ready for a great Saturday afternoon. The sun would be shining and here his young wife was inside the house crying.
Jim: So, he's thinking everything's great.
Jim: This is just the way I had planned it. I've got a wonderful wife and we have great careers and—
Juana: Yes, and I—
Jim: --I get to play golf on the weekend. (Chuckling)
Juana: --I kept …
Jim: Did you ever say to him, "Honey, I'm lonely?"
Juana: I told him I didn't want us to end up divorced, that something was missing in our marriage and he really thought that I had a problem. And he now … now sees that we had a problem because if you have a problem in marriage, it's both of your problem.
But he was happy and so, he just said, you know, "You … you need to figure out what's wrong." But I just kept telling him something is missing. Something's missing in our marriage. And I was to come a conclusion, a wrong conclusion that I had married the wrong person.
Jim: So, the … the um … circumstances of your marriage dictated to you that he was just the wrong guy.
Juana: Yes, he was the only boyfriend I had ever had. We had dated all through college and married the year afterward and I began to think, well, it … it must be that I've married the wrong person, because he's not like me. See, I didn't know, Jim, that men and women are totally different. (Laughter) At that time, I thought they were exactly the same, so I thought, he's not like me. He doesn't understand me. I must have married the wrong person.
Jim: Yeah, in reality, you married a man (Laughter), a different person.
Jim: Juana, let me ask you, in your book, Choosing Him All Over Again,you talk about seeds of discontent and it … you're laying that groundwork right now and you're telling us that early in your marriage, two years, which Ironically you know that about two years in any marriage, that's when the … the fascination, the uh … euphoria of the relationship begins to wear off researchers say.
It's about at that two-year mark. And so disillusionment is kind of the common thing because he doesn't love me the way I thought he would love me. It's not that Cinderella romance I thought it would be. And you kinda settle in to doing life together, payin' the bills, working, kids come along, etc.
But what were those seeds of discontent? You … you've shared that one where you're now thinking he's not the right guy. That's maybe a … a pine tree of discontent. You think he's now the wrong guy, but in the book you talk about that little preparation for marriage, which we spoke about.
Different perspectives was another one. Wh … what were those different perspectives that you and Terry [had]? Was that the hobby and the golf and the, I don't want to be home on the weekend and you're feeling isolated?
Juana: I wasn't the best housekeeper and at that time, I didn't even know it. I (Laughter) … I … I know Terry just asked me to wrap the lettuce better and … and other things that he was actually much better at than me. And I thought he didn't care about our relationship. He just … he just cared how I wrapped the food and put it in the refrigerator.
Juana: And I … I didn't fold the towels. I didn't put 'em in the closet neatly. I just kinda threw 'em in there, which is … is horrible to admit. But I just wasn't a good housekeeper and I thought he doesn't care about this relationship. I need to find someone that's more like me. I've married the wrong person.
And I just became so disillusioned. I … I would think, if he … if he … if he … because it would be years later, Jim, before I would learn the two things that would prevent any couple from getting a divorce—seeking unity in the marriage and seeking the good of the other person. I didn't know those things. I just thought about myself. I just selfishly thought about me, that he didn't understand me. He wasn't like me and I was at the center of everything I was thinking.
Jim: Well, what was that final straw? You talk about that in the book where that was that moment where, I guess, you then decided to leave.
Jim: Was there … what was that incident that Terry offended you? Or how did it play out?
Juana: I had gone away on a business trip for some training for the company I worked for and while I was away that week, I was exposed to so many people and so many personalities and the teachers all had so much charisma. And in my mind, I began to compare Terry to these other men. And I thought they were so funny and I thought they were so different and I thought, comparing them to Terry, that he just didn't measure up!
Jim: And did that uh … in that context, did that give you justification for now considering maybe I need to leave him, 'cause he's not right for me in all these ways?
Juana: In my mind, for the first time, I began to muse about not being married. And on the plane ride home, I began to think about not being married. No more crying. We had for about a year and a half, had those Saturday morning crying sessions and I was done crying.And I finally made a decision that I was leaving and I wasn't doing it as a ploy, as a chess move to see what he would do to really get his attention now. No, I was done. I was totally, totally finished with the marriage.
Jim: In fact, you … you talked about it in the book, um Choosing Him All Over Again, like jumping into a beautiful sailboat. So, were you … what were you jumping into?
Juana: Well, Niagara Falls was ahead, but I had (Laughter) no idea! I had no idea. You see, I thought I knew. I thought I knew what I was doing and I thought I knew what was best and I did not have the Lord in my life guiding me and I wanted to leave. I … I rationed [sic] that, hey, my rationale was, we don't have children.
Thank goodness we don't have children because I still young yet. I was in my early 20's. So, I thought, I … I've got to find the right one. He's not the right one, the sooner the better and thank goodness we don't have children.
Jim: You know, Juana, in the context of that kind of disillusionment two years into your marriage, you often think about your family of origin. What was your family of origin like, your mom and dad? Did they experience divorce?
Juana: They both came from divorce. In fact, they both had multiple marriages and um … sadly, my father was an alcoholic. He was not a mean alcoholic, there was no abuse, no sexual abuse, no verbal abuse. But sadly, he retreated in one end of the house and my mother retreated to another, and it's not good for man to be alone. And so, they had a lot of loneliness in their marriage. And I was really headed right down that path.
Jim: Did it play into your own experience? It had to. Been … and how did it? When you thought of you and Terry and what you were experiencing and that disillusionment, did you think about your own parents and their experience and how you were maybe fearful of that — that you would end up like them?
Juana: I knew I never wanted to be divorced, but I was glad that I was still young. So I think my … my thoughts really were on what happened? I wanted to know what happened, because I didn't want it to happen again. I wanted to get it right the second time.
And I went to counselors. I regret that they were not Christian counselors and now I always tell people, in fact, I even point 'em to Focus to … to get Christian counseling um … and not to go to secular counselors because I went to one. She had a heavy Hebrew accent and she called me Vana and she said, "Vana, you're a late bloomer. That's your problem, is you're a late bloomer." And I could laugh (Laughter), you know, laugh about it now, but really it was so sad that here she was, her advice to me when you net it all out, was that I was just a late bloomer and I was just now getting started.
Jim: That came up a little short.
Jim: Yeah, obviously, it did.Did … where was the Lord in this picture? You mentioned you went to your pastor for a couple of hours of premarital counseling, but you … it sounds like you weren't a committed Christian.
Jim: And where was Terry in his faith at that time?
Juana: We did not go to church as a married couple, but I grew up going to church — the church was just right behind our house. In fact, my father put up a little gate so we could just walk to church. He didn't always go with us, but I knew all the Bible stories. I grew up in choir.
But finally one morning I decided that the answers must be in church because I … with all the counseling, I was no better off. I was still crying all the time and I wanted to know what happened. And one day I went back to a church in Raleigh.
Jim: Ah, when you mentioned that note at the top of the program and if you didn't hear that, um … get the download because that note was powerful. It sounded so, if I can say this without offending you, decisive, maybe even a little chilly toward Terry. I'm done. Let's not work on it. I'll come by later to pick my stuff up. And and also, all the best in your life, Juana.
I mean, it … it felt steely. So, the … the question I have for you is, how did Terry respond? You leave him the note. Wh … did it come out of the blue for him?
Juana: Yes, and he was devastated. He was devastated and he wanted to talk and he wanted to try to work it out and I told him no, no, that we were done.
Jim: How did … how many months went by or weeks went by before you had contact or what was happening for you?
Juana: Months and months went by and I wanted to be in search for Mr. Right. I wanted to be available. I wanted to find someone that I could … 'cause see, I was looking for romance. I was looking for love and I was … I knew nothing of the … the real lasting biblical love that the Bible speaks of, this self-giving love that's forgiving, that we read about in 1 Corinthians 13. I knew none of that.
I didn't even know if I was a Christian when I started going to that little church and he would talk to the Christians, I would think, "Is that me?" No, I'm not a Christian. I left my husband. I can't be a Christian. Well, when I get my act together, when I do find someone and we marry, then I'll come to the Lord and then maybe He can use me, but He … He sure couldn't want me now because I left my husband."
Jim: You know, Juana, you're speaking to the hearts of many people right now, male and female, where they're not sure where they're at. Um … it concerns me that you could go to church as often as you did and not know if you were saved and that if Jesus had entered your heart and began to transform you. That breaks my heart, 'cause I'm thinkin' of my own teenagers, as we go to church every week and are they getting the message? Thinking of that, speak to the parents about uh … how to make sure that their children understand what it means to be saved in Christ.
Juana: I never remember one Scripture read in our home. My mother's from another country. I do remember she had a Spanish Bible, which said Santa Biblia and it was on her bedside. I do not remember us ever reading aloud the Bible. I never remember hearing any kind of practical training out of the Bible.
I remember the pastor greeting people and welcoming 'em to the church and saying, "This is the most important decision you'll ever make in y our life." And I remember as an 8-year-old girl, a 10-year-old girl thinking, "Not really. He's just saying that 'cause we're in a church and he's the pastor."I mean, the most important decision you'll ever make in life is who you're gonna marry and I just had dreams of … of being married one day and I would have this knight in shining armor. And I remember at 10-years-old looking into the bathroom mirror in our little blue bathroom and wondering where he was. He was somewhere on the planet. Where was he? And then all those years later, I came up so empty. I thought it was Terry, but then I thought I'd made such a huge mistake.
And then when I started going to church, I met with the pastor and he said to me, "Juana," and then he read Matthew 6:33 to me.
He read, "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you, as well." And he said, "Juana, you're tryin' to make the wrong decision. You're tryin' to make this decision about your marriage, but you're makin' the wrong decision. What you really need to decide is, what are you going to do with Christ?"
Juana: "What are you gonna do with Christ?" He said, "You need to commit your life to Him. Will you do that now?" And I said, "No." He said, "Why can't you do that now?" I said, "Because He is not real to me." And He wasn't. Jim, He wasn't real at all. He was just a Bible story to me. I had so many reasons why I couldn't turn to God.
Just a sampling of those — I don't want to turn to God if it's just for a crutch. If I do, as soon as my problems are solved, I'll be outta here. And I had the misconception that if you said you were a Christian, that was saying you were perfect. And I knew God wouldn't want me because I was a separated person. I … I had to go and do something first. Get my … get my life together and then come back…
Jim: Uh … you know, Juana, let me interrupt there because you're saying something that I think we suffer from within the body of Christ in that idea of perfection, that somehow we're less loved by God, less acceptable by God if we're not living perfectly.
And the Scripture's clear. We can't do it perfectly. That's exactly why Jesus had to die on the Cross for us. It doesn't mean it gives us a license to sin but what it says is, I have provided the way. I am the sacrificial lamb for you. Do these things because you love me, not because it's mechanical. And that connection finally hit for you, right?
Juana: Oh, yes, you know, I was looking to Terry to meet all my needs. If Terry…if Terry. No person can meet all your needs. Only God can do that. You know, I was looking for romance. I knew nothing of that self-giving love that the Bible talks about.
Jim: So, when did it happen? When did … you said no to the pastor. Did you come back to him? Or was it somebody else? Or what was the time frame between you saying, "No, I can't—
Jim: --accept Him?"
Juana: --several more months went by and I continued going to that church even though I knew I was not a believer. I just kept going and I …
Jim: And you're living separately from Terry?
Juana: We're totally living separately. I … had enough income that I could pay for my half of the mortgage and an apartment. And I continued going to the little church. And actually, I was alone in my apartment. I had been praying, "Lord, show me who You are. And Jesus, who are You? Will you show me who You are?"
And I was actually alone in my apartment and I first gave my life to Him one day. I was tired. I was actually just tired and I … I didn't receive Christ, but I just yielded to God. I yielded to God that May 5th, 1985 and just said, "Lord, I'm tired of driving. You take take the wheel and you take the keys and show me, show me how to live."
And it was actually a couple months later on the 4th of July, and it was 31 years ago, I can't believe it, that I was alone in that apartment and one of the pastors had given me a book called Hope for the Separated by Gary Chapman and it went across the table in a tug of war four times. And I (Laughter) … I told him, I said, "You need to give this book to somebody that's gonna read it, because I know what it's gonna say and I don't want to read it. I'll just read the first paragraph and I won't read anymore."
Jim: Can I ask you why? Was it that feeling of condemnation?
Juana: Yes! And guilt because I had left my husband and I knew it was gonna tell me that I shouldn't do that. And I didn't want to hear it and so--
Jim: You were wrestling.
Juana: --I just told him to give the book to somebody who was going to read it. But he won. He told me to take it and I went to that apartment and put it as far away as possible on a shelf where I wouldn't have to look at it until that 4th of July night, when I got it down because of a series of circumstances that I tell in the book. I got that down and in an instant, the scales came off my eyes.
I realized that I was a sinner, that Christ had died for me! That if I was the only person in the world, He wouldn't done it for me. He's that kind of a personal God. He knew me intimately and He stood there, not condemning me, but forgiving me and loving me. You know, we wear crosses around our neck. We … we have crosses in our homes for decoration. At that time, I didn't even own a cross and I wanted a cross. I couldn't find a cross, so I got a clothes pin and I took it apart and turned it around with a rubber band and I made a cross. And I wrote things on the cross that Christ had died for me for, and one was my marriage!
You know, the cross is an instrument of torture! And that's what Christ did. He paid the price. You know that night I trusted Him as my dying Savior and He saved me from the guilt of my sin, for my shame.
Jim: Huh, man, Juana, I mean, that is powerful and when I look at the why question, God, why did You create marriage the way You did? I think you're on the very core thing, which is to become more like Him and that means selfless. That is the nature of our God, selfless.
That is the nature of our God, being selfless. That's His character.And uh … yet, you had to wake up the next morning. You had a wonderful spiritual embrace of the Lord and you gave your heart to Him. Now you wake up to the world you're livin' in and your husband's not living with you and you're gonna have to now begin to decide what you're gonna do.
And we don't have time today to go through that but I want to start the program next time and talk about how God, from that day forward, began to change your heart first and then eventually, your husband's heart. And how He reconciled your marriage, because that is the testimony and we have done work today to lay the … the … the kind of the groundwork for what we want to share tomorrow. So, um … let's come back next time and talk about the real gift that God has given you. Can we do that?
Juana: Yes, I'd be happy to.
John: Well Jim as we've heard this amazing and rather difficult story today, I'm sure there are some couples listening who are right where Juana and her husband Terry were. They're in a marriage without any hope.
Jim: There's no doubt about it John and here at Focus on the Family we routinely hear from husbands and wives who feel like giving up. The pain has become too great and you don't know how you can work through that conflict; that disappointment, And may even betrayal in your relationship. Maybe you're like Juana was, ready to walk out because you feel like you've married the wrong person. What I'd like to say to you is don't! Don't give up on your marriage. God's got a better plan for your life than divorce. And secondly, let us help you. Focus on the Family has many resources for hurting desperate couples.
In fact, at the beginning of our program we mentioned our "Hope Restored" outreach located in Branson, MO and in Rome, GA. In these wonderful settings we offer intensive counseling for couples who are on the brink of divorce; maybe even signed the papers. But after several days of intensive counseling, prayer and encouragement, we've seen miracles happen. Marriages saved and we follow up 2 years later with these couples and in 84.6 percent they're still married and they are doing well. So please, don't delay. Contact us for the help you need and see what God can do to rescue your marriage.
John: Ask about "Hope Restored" or how to connect with one of our in-house counselors when you call 800-the letter A and the word FAMILY, or stop by www.Focusonthefamily.com/radio to learn more.
Jim: And for the rest of us, let me encourage you to invest in your marriage. Be intentional about connecting with your spouse on a regular basis because the business of life can easily pull you apart and we need to keep our relationships healthy and strong. Especially in today's culture where so many people see marriage as obsolete. And can I encourage you to invest in other marriages as well. We need your financial support so we can continue to provide the counseling and tools and programs, like we've shared today, and your generous giving makes all that possible. Help us rescue more couples like Juana and Terry.
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Juana MikelsView Bio
Juana Mikels is a public speaker and author of the book Choosing Him All Over Again: A Story of Romance and Redemption, which tells the story of her troubled marriage, separation from her husband and the eventual restoration of their relationship. Juana has a blog on which she has written posts about marriage, faith and other aspects of Christian living. She and her husband have four children, the youngest of whom, their daughter Mary, was born blind and with a cleft lip. Learn more about Juana and her family by visiting her website, www.juanamikels.com