Monday, October 18, 2010

Book Review - Lost + Found: Finding Myself by Getting Lost in an Affair

I recently picked up Lost + Found: Finding Myself by Getting Lost in an Affair after reading a review of the book and interview with author David Trotter on my friend Chad Estes’ blog.  As one who has been in ministry for years and has certainly experienced not too pleasant experiences along the way I was very interested in any insights Trotter might have both on the preventative side and for those who have gone through a similar ordeal.

Lost + Found is a cautionary tale of ministry and infidelity that centers around David Trotter, a pastor of ten years who, after planting a church just 5 years before, finds himself burned out, unfulfilled in both his marriage and ministry and experiencing romantic feelings for his wife’s best friend.  The story that ensues is a heart-breaking story of a man who throws away everything: his marriage, his family, and even his church for the fantasy of romantic love.  Trotter tells this story sparing very little of the sordid details by including journal entries, letters he wrote to his wife and his mistress, and tales of conflicts he experienced with many in his congregation over his self-destructive decisions.  The story is often painful to read as David recounts his feelings for another woman while on a mission trip and the eventual ensnaring of his heart by the subsequent affair.

While I have known plenty of people in ministry who have committed adultery, Trotter’s account really seeks to get at some of the motivation behind why a pastor would leave his wife, kids, and church for the arms of another.  While Trotter doesn't pin his infidelity on any one cause he is very clear that he was living in a very toxic environment built on his own lack of living within boundaries as a key factor in setting the stage for adultery.  As he mentions early on the foundation for this toxic environment was the idolatry of ministry.  As he writes ministry was his mistress long before he ever cheated on his wife.  The Bible quite often uses adultery as a picture of idolatry and this picture is very clear in Trotter’s story.  What started with looking to ministry for life, purpose, and meaning ended with David’s betrayal of his wife, kids, friends, family and the very church he built from the ground up. 

As I read the story I couldn’t help but think of my own struggles with living beyond God given limits, of looking to work for meaning and purpose, of rationalizing overwork as something spiritual, and of the times when I became disconnected from my wife, kids, and even my own heart because I was so burned out.  Lost + Found is a good reminder of why it is so important to tend to our lives and relationships daily by setting aside time and space for the things that truly matter.  I can only hope that his story will connect with many in the ministry who are struggling with similar issues before they suffer the same kind of fate. 

While the story ultimately ends in a redemptive place with David’s relationship restored to his wife and kids, it struck me as a little odd that he would write this story so quickly after the events happened.  Much of what he writes about happened less than 2-3 years ago.  While I am grateful for the restoration of his marriage and family and for his newfound humility and brokenness it seems a bit too fresh to write as though it is all just fine and dandy now.  If anything this book really strikes me as sort of a part one of a much larger story that will hopefully be written in another 5-10 years speaking of God’s continued faithfulness and restoration.  I don’t doubt Trotter’s zeal and passion for this new place and life but I just can’t see deep personal character transformation being over and done with this quick no matter how much he'd like that to be true.   That said,  I think he is definitely on the right track by continuing to meet with a therapist and by staying very close and connected with authentic friends and family as he learns how to live life for the first time in years without the idol of ministry at the center.

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