“Choosing Him All Over Again” by Juana Mikels — reviewed by Avid Reader
We have slightly condensed this book review. Full version here on Amazon.
It takes a tremendous amount of courage to open up about very private life experiences. That’s what Juana Mikels does so well in this book. You feel like you’re having a cup of coffee with her as she takes you through her life—sharing the ups and downs and most importantly her deep love for the Lord.
In her early twenties, she became frustrated with her marriage—feeling that she had fallen out of love with her husband Terry and needed someone else to light her fire. Hoping to find herself she leaves her husband and ends up instead finding a personal relationship with Christ and a whole new life. This book is a beautiful testimony of how both she and her husband came to know the Lord.
The parts of this book that I enjoyed most were when Juana shares her personal testimony. That’s about half the book. The other half is teaching on marriage—that’s where problems start appearing.
The first thing I noticed about this book is that she is VERY CRITICAL of herself. The self-loathing in this book gets so strong that after a while it feels like she’s reading from a script written by the accuser of the brethren. …
[Juana] remember that the women who buy your book are looking for real answers to heavy problems. They are already being bombarded with so many negative messages that they will never live up to society’s expectations of body image, status, achievement etc. The last thing we need is more self-loathing.
But there’s another layer to this. Reading through this book, you begin to realize that things are upside down. For example, in chapter sixteen she is interviewing various people about their marriages when she writes this,
“One man I interviewed who got attention in another woman’s arms told me he basically felt ignored by his wife in favor of her work and her television programs.”
Juana—he’s LYING to you. … even if his wife had been 100% perfect, he still would have had the affair because he wanted to sin. Blaming his wife instead of taking responsibility for his own bad choices is a huge red flag! Chances are that the affair is just the tip of the iceberg of what he wants to do. Without realizing it—this book is helping spread his deception by covering for his sin.
While meeting the needs of your spouse is a very important part of marriage—that’s not the only solution to every marriage problem. That disregards the reality that you can be the perfect spouse and still suffer the pain of watching your mate choose evil. The problem is that this book keeps blame shifting by trying to move all the responsibility for one spouse’s bad choices to the other.
And this book has a double standard where Juana will make excuses for people living in unrepentant sin while at the same time blaming real believers for supposedly being the problem.
Donna had struggled with her husband’s alcoholism their entire married life…..He was not a womanizer but alcohol and a traveling job proved to be all the temptation he needed to become unfaithful. (Ch. 3)
Wait a minute. Why is the abuser getting all the sympathy? He wasn’t a womanizer until he was pressured into it by work? Really?
The truth is that there are many faithful men out there who work away from home for months at a time and remain loyal to their wives because they are good men. That’s the difference between real men and abusers.
When she discovered her husband’s unfaithfulness and substance abuse, Donna became severely depressed. Once a wonderful, conscientious mother, Donna could hardly get out of bed. She and her husband separated for three years.
Eventually Donna became a believer and became immersed in the Word. She has grown tremendously in the Lord and in not enabling her husband’s self-destructive choices. His substance abuse began over thirty years ago, but she says they now have a good marriage; she just doesn’t talk with him when he chooses to drink. At the time of this writing, they are about to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary. (Ch. 3)
Here we go again—more excuses for sin but no help for victims. The worst part is that somewhere out there Donna is hurting and bleeding right now, feeling like there’s no way out.
There’s a lot of women out there who are also hurting in these kinds of difficult situations. This book teaches them that if they just try harder everything will solve itself but that ignores the need for boundaries. The interview with Donna suggests that there are much deeper issues in that situation but this book seems to completely sidestep the topic of abuse.
Trying to understand Juana’s thought process on this, I looked for anything where her ministry directly addressed the topic of abuse. The closest thing I could find was a podcast interview with Delight Your Marriage posted on her website.
On part one of that podcast—at about 28 minutes into the interview—the host specifically asks Juana how she would minister to women who are living with controlling spouses.
Listen closely to her response:
Host: The wife that’s listening right now—that’s saying—I would submit to him but the problem is that he’s INCREDIBLY OVERBEARING or HE IS CONTROLLING or these kinds of REALLY TERRIBLE qualities—what would you tell her?
Juana: What I would say to that woman is—you look for ways to make his life as pleasant and easy as you can. You do your part—the wife’s part…..I’m not talking about the husband who is hitting his wife or asking her to do something that’s totally wrong because the other 99% of us—we just don’t want to submit. He wanted to go to the Chinese restaurant and we wanted to go have Italian tonight. So it’s all these little things in life. We just didn’t want to be intimate right now because…….didn’t he see how busy I was today and he didn’t even offer to help diaper the kids….
Maybe he wouldn’t try to be so controlling if we were more loving and sweet.
Maybe he’s trying to be controlling because every time he asks us to do something he knows we’re going to do what we want to do anyway. All I’m saying is let’s work on our part because chances are—let’s say he’s 80% of the man we want. None of us are prize packages. All of us have areas. Let’s work on our part.
…she just slammed women five different times in one brief response! That is taking the precious Gospel of Christ and mixing it with the deadly poison of misogyny.
What gets me the most is when she flippantly disregards the real pain people are experiencing by saying “maybe he wouldn’t try to be so controlling if we were more loving and sweet.”
That’s like saying that Pharaoh wouldn’t have been so cruel to the Israelites if they had just been kinder and sweeter. That opens the floodgates for the abuser to do whatever he wants while blaming the victim for not being sweet enough. …
Reading through this book, I began to see that in a very subtle way—this book is taking away the ability of women to recognize what’s happening to them or make even basic personal choices.
Juana writes about how while she was separated, her friends encouraged her to work towards reconciliation, “When I would get upset about something Terry said to me, they would remind me that a dead person doesn’t have any rights!” (Ch. 9)
At the core of the Christian faith is the giving up of your rights—your way. (Ch. 16)
… When Rosa Parks sat down on a bus and brought a nation to its feet—was it a sin for her to insist on her rights? Of course not! In fact, she said what inspired her to stand up for her rights was the Bible story of Moses standing up to Pharaoh.
Rosa Parks wrote that on that fateful day when she was ordered to give up her seat:
then three of the blacks in my row got up, but I stayed in my seat and slid closer to the window..…Our mistreatment was just not right and I was tired of it. The more we gave in, the more they mistreated us. …
From my upbringing and the Bible, I learned people should stand up for their rights, just as the children of Israel stood up to Pharaoh…..Someone had to take that first step…..in that moment on the bus I decided to resist and take the consequences. (Quiet Strength p. 22, 42)
Rosa Parks is the perfect example of suffering according to the will of God. She suffered by RESISTING the oppression NOT submitting to it.
Of course, Juana will say that we’re just misunderstanding her points. But all we are doing is obeying God’s command to “test all things.” Not to allow ourselves to be tossed to and fro by every new wind of doctrine.
In Juana’s book she also writes,
Pray for your husband whether he is a Christian or not and even if you feel that you are mistreated, remember that Christ says, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?” Instead, Christ says to love them without expecting to get anything back—that’s how He loves us. That is love with no conditions…..of course seek safety if you are in a harmful situation…….when you love and pray for your husband……(God) says that our reward will be great. (Appendix 2)
That is taking away the ability of women to set boundaries to protect themselves from abuse while implying that submitting to abuse will be rewarded by God!
In fact—the more you read through this book the more you can feel something else simmering underneath the surface. It first appears in the very beginning of the book when you read an endorsement from Elisabeth Elliott.
Many of you know the story of how her husband, Jim Elliott, gave his life taking the Gospel into the remote jungles of Ecuador. Mrs. Elliott also served as a missionary and then later in life had a thriving ministry to women.
But if nobody’s perfect and everyone makes mistakes—is it possible that even a hero of the faith like Mrs. Elliott could make mistakes?
When you open this book, the very first thing you see is Mrs. Elliott describing how she mentored Juana for the ministry, saying “I have known Juana Mikels for nearly ten years.”
Then the very next thing is slamming women for working outside the home! Mrs. Elliott writes, “Who wants to keep house in this day and age? Isn’t it more fun to be out and about, getting a job, making money, etc. rather than being a quiet and gentle spirit busy at home as the Scripture clearly states?”
Now Elisabeth Elliott was involved with Bill Gothard’s ministry for years even personally teaching sessions for Gothard’s EXCEL program—an eight week seminar for teenage girls. What she taught teenage girls in those sessions was described by an eyewitness named Wende Benner in the article Created to Be His Doormat.
Wende describes being raised in a family heavily involved in Gothard’s ministry. So when Wende heard that Mrs. Elliott herself was going to teach at the EXCEL program, she was excited to attend and learn directly from this hero of the faith.
But what actually happened was not what she expected.
Wende describes how during these teaching sessions, Mrs. Elliott seemed to focus on how “there were so many sins women were prone to falling into…and just one of them could not only destroy our lives but the lives of our husbands and children.”
What were these sins?
Things such as having expectations from life. … God’s only purpose for women was marriage and children—as many children as possible. If women and girls had any other desires or dreams they were sinning.
At one point, Mrs. Elliott had a question and answer time where some of the girls start asking questions like “how does submission look when parents are quite possibly being abusive or even asking one to do something wrong?”
But Wende is surprised to watch that “with each question Mrs. Elliott seemed to become more and more impatient. She reiterated the fact that God called us to submit and surrender. There were no exceptions.”
Finally one girl asks, “Mrs. Elliott, are you saying that God made women to be doormats?”
Mrs. Elliott then replied, “Well, I have always said since God made me to be a doormat, I will be the best doormat I can be.”
That’s the kind of thinking that runs heavily through this book! It makes you cringe when Juana writes, “I’m so grateful that Elisabeth Elliott taught me these concepts on obeying my husband.” (Ch. 17)
Yet the irony is that what actually inspired Mrs. Elliott to become a missionary was Amy Carmichael who fulfilled God’s plan for her life by never marrying or having children but serving over fifty years in India—making a huge difference by rescuing many children. So did Gladys Aylward—who also inspired Mrs. Elliott. Gladys was turned down by missionary organizations but answered the call of God on her life by working as a maid to save up enough money to go to China by herself.
Both Amy and Gladys are great examples of how God can use women in many different ways just like the Apostle Paul wrote
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Gal 1:10 NIV)
There are more issues in this book that I wish there was time to deal with but I’ll close with this—if I ever had the chance to have a cup of coffee with Juana, I would encourage her to read Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft and Unholy Charade by Pastor Jeff Crippen. I’m hoping that because Juana really does want to help people she will take the time to get the right resources and training to better understand women facing harmful situations. Those two books are a great place to start.