Elijah House and My Surprise Marriage

Elijah House and My Surprise Marriage

by Lauren Miltenberger, Staff Writer and Editor


I didn’t take Course 201: Heart Healing Essentials because I wanted to. I took it because I was doing contract work for Elijah House, and taking the course was required. Pretty much, I was just there for the money. I was the only person in my online small group who had no interest in becoming a prayer counselor. 

I had no idea of the hidden treasure God had planted in this course for me. If I had realized His intention, I would have taken the course much more quickly! 

Judgments and Dating

The 201 talks about bitter-root judgments. For those who aren’t familiar with that phrase, it is when a person goes through some kind of pain, usually during childhood, and that pain encourages them to make negative assumptions about people who remind them of the person who hurt them.

“My dad was this way. Therefore, all men are this way, even if they pretend they aren’t. Eventually I will get my heart broken.” 

“My mom was never proud of me. One day when I get married, I will be a disappointment to my wife because I won’t be able to live up to her expectations.”

“Men hurt women. That is what men do. Why am I even thinking about finding a husband? Because I will just be hurt in the end.”

When we make judgments like these, we think they are wisdom. “This is a good idea for me because I don’t want to get hurt again.” But these judgments are “bitter,” and all they produce is bitterness. They follow the sowing and reaping principle mentioned in Galatians 6:7: 

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a person sows, this he will also reap. (NASB)

We plant a tiny seed of judgment and reap a much bigger harvest later. The judgment starts off as “small,” but the outcome of the judgment grows over time and ends up affecting our life in negative ways.

When you realize how easy it is to plant a judgment, it is kind of nerve-racking! People do it all the time and don’t realize what they are doing.

But the good thing is once we repent for the judgments we made, Jesus steps in and changes the story. In fact, the bitter-root judgment teaching includes all these stories about how people repented for judgments they made, and then their lives changed. Like, dramatically.

Going through the 201, I kept thinking how the different principles applied to dating. I was intrigued by the concept of how a judgment made by one person somehow keeps them from experiencing the beauty of another person. But when they repent, they become able to experience the good things that were absent or not accessible in the relationship previously.

So, somewhere near the beginning of the course, I realized I was judging men. I was writing them off in ways God did not intend. I began to wonder if there was someone from my past I had written off when God had a very different opinion of that man. 

And there was. 

Why Repentance Is So Important in Dating

Immediately, an old friend came to mind.

I had known Joel for about ten years but hadn’t seen him in five because we had moved to different states. When I first met him, he lived down the street from me. We would talk about books and TV shows and get coffee together. When I took the 201, he lived six hours away, and we texted maybe once or twice a year.

I decided I would text Joel and see how he was doing—and, you know, see if anything happened. Maybe God would do something, and this man I had judged in the past would end up being unexpectedly important to me. 

That was in June 2021. Two Junes later, he proposed, and today I am writing this story as a humbled woman who is in love with an old friend. A friend I never truly “saw” until God used the 201 to show me He had a different way of thinking about men than I did. 

That is what bitter-root judgments do to a person. They keep you from seeing what is there to be seen. They keep you from falling in love.

I am amazed at my former blindness. I hung out with Joel so many times in the past—and never realized how beautiful he is. There is an entire ocean inside this man, and I thought he was just a pond. I didn’t see what was really there.

For me to embrace the future God had for me—and for Joel to embrace his future—I needed to see what God saw, and I couldn’t do that when I was stuck in my little realm of man judgment. 

Gender Judgments in Christian Communities

When Joel and I started texting more seriously, I was 40 years old and had never been married. 

If somebody had suggested to me, “Hey, maybe you’re judging men,” I would have considered the possibility—I do try to be open minded—but I probably wouldn’t have realized how important it was. The 201 was incredibly helpful in that I learned how to recognize judgments in everyday life and know what to do with them.

This is just my opinion, but I think there are probably a lot of people in the Church who have made judgments about marriage or members of the opposite sex, and they have no idea those judgments are actively working against them. Some people may be single right now who aren’t supposed to be, and it could be the work of judgments. I feel I was taught to make judgments about men so I didn’t end up in a bad relationship, and it makes sense to me that a lot of other women were too.

Obviously—and unfortunately—bad relationships happen. I’m not saying we should take risks in unsafe situations. My point is I assumed my opinion of the man down the street was correct, and it wasn’t. I needed the Holy Spirit to show me what was real. 

Letting Go of False Expectations

Repenting for the judgment was the easy part. Allowing God to change my expectations of what love, marriage, and a husband look like was harder.

Just as I didn’t realize I was judging men, I also didn’t realize I had built a fantasy for myself of what the “ideal husband” looked like. It took me a long time to realize that man didn’t exist. He was a book character I had made up. 

It is slightly embarrassing to say this, but I read a LOT of romance novels in my single years, and I didn’t realize how much they had influenced me. I figured I was too wise to be influenced by them (ugh). I was basically living in a fantasy realm where marriage was concerned, and that fantasy played a huge role in the judgment I made against the man God had chosen for me. “You don’t look like the image I have in my head, so you must not be right for me.”

At one point while Joel and I were dating, I told the Lord, “This doesn’t look the way I expected.”

I felt like He replied, “This is precious because it doesn’t look the way you expected.”

I was a little surprised. Were my expectations that wrong? I was pretty sure I knew what I was doing!

I did not know what I was doing. I needed Him to show me.

God Reveals Someone’s Beauty

To love people well, not just our spouse but anyone, we need to see them the way God sees them. In the beginning, I felt my judgments and expectations were accurate, but I needed to let all of that go so God could show me the beautiful, godly man who was called to be my partner.

If you can let the Lord show you what is real, you will be amazed. It will take faith and courage, but it could just be that you fall in love with a friend—someone whose beauty you didn’t see until the Lord showed you.

Obviously, I highly recommend Course 201: Heart Healing Essentials, and I think everyone should take it, even if they don’t feel called to be a prayer counselor. I still don’t feel called to be a prayer counselor—but I do feel called to be Joel’s wife, and I didn’t know it until I took the 201. If anything in my story resonated with you, you may want to check out the 201 for yourself. Click here to find out more.


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Loads of wonderful insight here. Love the way the God-inspired principles of Elijah House are healing His people. Thank you.

Carol D

I saw a list of suggested materials for purchase.
Are all books and video provided with the 201 purchase? Also, are there local in person weekly small groups avail?

Sherry Hughes

Very well said my friend. I think this is something all woman can relate to, I definitely can. I am happy for the insight and one day hope to accomplish and find the same kind of love God has for me in someone he has designed just for me!!! I am so happy, so proud and love you so much!! Miss you my friend!!

Elizabeth Wells

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