I had an opportunity to interview David Trotter, the author of an incredibly important book, Lost+Found: Finding Myself by Getting Lost in an Affair. Trotter was married with two children to his college sweetheart and a pastor of a successful church in Southern California when he decided to give everything up to pursue a relationship with another woman. This shocking memoir left me with quite a few questions and much more to think about. David was kind enough to provide honest answers to go with an honest book. See my review and then go buy the book – it is highly recommended.
Scott Asher: This is one of the most intimate behind the scenes look at adultery that I’ve ever seen or read. I assume that most people who have gone through something like this would want to sweep this under the rug and move on. What made you want to write this book?
David Trotter: In December of 2008, I outlined the entire book on a plane ride back from India, but it just sat there as a three page document within the protected confines of my laptop. I wasn’t ready to write about it. It was too painful. It brought tears to my eyes just to think about it. As the months passed by and my life took on a new normal, I gained courage to share my story…until one day…I started writing.
With each sentence that formed, I surprisingly experienced healing within my own heart and life. By authentically sharing my hopes and dreams combined with my rock bottom experience, I was liberated from much of the guilt, disappointment, anger, and resentment I felt in my own life. To share my story of depravity and redemption in such a raw form was healing in and of itself. I would spend focused time allowing the story to flow out of me…oftentimes closing my eyes as I typed and recounted my experiences.
The primary reason why I wrote Lost + Found (and my wife allowed it to be published) was for the benefit of others. Rather than sanitize my story, I have chosen to tell it as I remember it. My desire is for the reader to experience the highest ‘highs’ and the lowest ‘lows’ as I search for the life I always wanted. In my opinion, the power of the redemption is fully experienced against the backdrop of the depravity of my search. The response from people who have had affairs or been hurt by affairs has been overwhelmingly positive. And, it’s been amazing to hear from people who have no connection to an affair at all who have been equally inspired and challenged.
Asher: Knowing that your wife and children would have access to this book after it was published caused me to cringe several times during the narrative. You didn’t seem to hold back on any of the details, even the details about the satisfaction and quantity of sex with Samantha, and the raw language, for a couple examples. Now that this information is out there how did your family react to the full story and how do you handle your children having access to the story?
Trotter: Although my wife didn’t read the book until it was completely written, she had full power to pull the plug on the project at any point in time. She read the book in one sitting, and I know it was challenging to read about my entire experience. As she processed through her thoughts and feelings, I simply listened. In the meantime, I gave her full license to edit out any and all parts…which she did in several places within my story. The manuscript sat dormant for several months until my wife felt like she was ready for it to be made public. As you can imagine, it was a very sensitive process for both of us.
During that time, we discussed the ramifications of the book on both of our children. Since they are young (7 and 11), they really aren’t interested in the story…especially since they lived through much of it. Some day (at an appropriate age), I’m sure they’ll ask to read it, and I’ll be ready to process through their responses with empathy and compassion.
Asher: One of the creepiest parts of the story for me was when you and Samantha would read the Bible together. It just seemed so twisted to me for two people engaged in such a conspicuous and life altering sin to be discussing God. In fact, on several occasions you mention that you discussed what you thought God thought of the situation but there weren’t a lot of details about your conclusions other than He “probably didn’t like it.” So clear this up for readers: what did you think God thought of your actions and how did you rationalize your actions?
Trotter: I’m sure God did not approve of us leaving our spouses to be with one another, but I didn’t really care in the moment. Because my soul was so parched and weary, I was willing to drink ‘mud’ in order to satisfy my thirst. It nearly killed me. My mind wasn’t trying to rationalize anything…I was just trying to survive every day.
At the same, I don’t think God abandoned me…nor did I abandon God. That’s a hard thing to digest for most Christians. Samantha and I went to church each week, and we spent more time talking about God, reading the Bible together, and praying together. Just because we’re doing something that’s unhealthy and sinful, it doesn’t mean that God leaves us in the dust. In fact, I sensed God’s presence in powerful ways. His Presence doesn’t equal approval…it equals love. Believe me…I was definitely experiencing the natural consequences of my sin.
Asher: It seems like Kirk was a very important friend throughout this process. His line, something like “You can’t sin your way out of my life,” was awesome! My concern with him is how passive he seems to be in your relationship, never really pointing you in the right direction but rather it seemed like he was just along for the ride. I understand not wanting to be preachy or pushy, but doesn’t it seem natural that someone who loves you and sees you doing yourself harm would want to intercede and point you in the right direction and do you think Kirk should have nudged you in the right direction a little more?
Trotter: Since Kirk went through something very similar in his own life, he knew that correction would never have worked. It would only have driven me away from him. It’s not as though I needed someone to tell me that what I was about to do was ludicrous. I didn’t care. I was done caring. I just wanted out. In cases like mine, unsolicited advice rarely works…it usually just makes the person doling out the advice feel better about themselves.
Asher: Kirk seems like a natural selection to walk through this situation with you since he went through something like this and restored his marriage in the end. Ron and his wife, on the other hand didn’t seem like ideal mentors in this situation because, if I understand correctly, they are Christians who both left their spouses to marry each other. Ron seemed to me like the devil on your shoulder to Kirk’s angel; always showing you a way to make it work with Samantha. Frankly, I’m at a loss as to how I should, as a reader and a Christian, respond to Ron. Why did you go to him for support and in the bigger picture how should Christians respond to the Rons in our life?
Trotter: Ron and his new wife were (and are) dear friends, and they loved me no matter what…when I was with my wife, with Samantha, and even after she left. They were more interested in me than who I was with. No matter what decision I made…they were willing to walk with me. In their own lives, they experienced people who rejected them in the midst of their decisions, and they knew how important it was and is to walk with people.
This is a messy situation. Some people are willing to walk with the Rons of the world, and others think it’s their Christian duty to shun them. It’s hard, isn’t it? The other day, I had a reader ask me about God’s perspective on new relationships and marriages that come initially from an affair. I asked that question myself. “When will God be okay/approve of the new relationship?” No easy answers. All I know is that God forgives, and God wants each couple to have an incredible, intimate marriage. Would God want to equip and empower you to have the best new marriage possible? Seems like it to me. You are forgiven, and God loves you tremendously. Go and sin no more. (Sound familiar?)
Asher: I was disappointed with the angry and hurtful reactions of many of the people who you used to pastor. I believe that responding with anger and lashing out at you was un-Christian of them. But then I wonder how would someone appropriately act in that situation? Should they embrace their “fallen” pastor and his mistress? Should they lay low and pray for you? Imagine I’m someone who just heard you speak at a conference and this just happened at my church. How do you advise me to act?
Trotter: It all depends on your relationship with the pastor. If you’re a close friend, I’d encourage you to reach out to him or her. They don’t need to be reminded that it’s not appropriate. Express your care for them, pray for them, and resist the urge to gossip and slander. Trust God with the results.
If you’re not a close friend but someone who attends the church, pray and stand against anything that appears as gossip, slander, or dissension. Develop compassion for the pastor by searching for those times in your own life when you’ve lacked integrity. In the same way that you want God to forgive you in your own life, work toward forgiving the pastor in your own heart. If you don’t think your life could implode in some way, you’re mistaken.
Asher: Something that seemed to be missing in your narrative (or at least omitted from much of the story) is a reliance on reading Scripture and prayer. How much did prayer and scripture reading impact your decisions during your journey back to your wife and equilibrium?
Trotter: Although reading Scripture and connecting with God through specific times of prayer is important, I found that God used daily conversations with my three friends and therapist to speak in profound ways. You’ve got to remember that all things associated with ‘church’ and ‘ministry’ were part of the process of selling God. Reading the Bible and prayer represented the process by which I received a message to share with my congregation…and less about connecting with the Creator of the world. As I continued to deconstruct my faith (and view of ministry) and reconstruct a new relationship with God, I find myself turning to Scripture and prayer more often than ever before.
Asher: It seems at one point that you have so much going on with family, being a pastor, and multiple projects that it overwhelms you and you end up on a destructive path. When I look at where you are now you still have your family, are still a leader or pastor of a new community, and have a bunch of projects (books, website, India and speaking.) What have you learned and what steps are you taking to avoid becoming overwhelmed and burned out again?
Trotter: The key for me is to continue embracing my true identity, which is found in the context of being created by a loving God. It’s found in understanding who God says I am and what God has planned for my life. It’s not about trying to impress others or become ‘somebody’ in this world. It’s not about the adrenaline hits that come from accomplishing a big goal or completed an important project.
My wife and a few close friends are people that I’m in daily and weekly process with in terms of the state of my heart and the workload I carry. In addition, my wife and I continue to go to therapy on a monthly basis to ensure I stay on track and my wife retains a strong voice in our relationship.
Frankly, I have more time than ever before. Although I have seasons when there are intense projects on my plate, I’m enjoying life and being present with my family and friends. I love my new normal.
Asher: Who is your target audience is for this book and why does it matter? Is this a Christian book?
Trotter: I didn’t set out to write a ‘Christian’ book per se. In fact, I knew that some of the content and language would turn some Christians off, but that was okay. I really valued telling my story in a way that was authentic to what happened. I wanted people to feel the ecstasy and the pain of the story…experiencing the tension of it all.
My primary audience is anyone who feels ‘stuck’ in their life…whether they have any background with faith and spirituality at all. When we lack freedom and feel like we don’t have any real options, we can make unhealthy (and even destructive) decisions in an effort to find what’s missing. In reality, there are many options I could have taken that would have led toward health and wholeness without having to walk through hell.
May those who’ve experienced an affair one way or another be challenged to see that grace and reconciliation are possible. May those who feel ‘stuck’ know that a healthy freedom can be theirs. May those who don’t think that it could ever happen to them be warned. And, may those who are critical and self-righteous be filled with compassion.
For more on David Trotter, his book and his ministry visit DavidTrotter.tv.
Scott Asher is the founder and administrator of BookGateway.com. Along with his contributions to BookGateway, he reviews for the commercial site BuddyHollywood.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he cartoons and writes on anything he finds funny and Christianity, which sometimes overlap.
This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.