Adrift After an Affair, Pastor Went From Rock Bottom to Redemption
Posted on February 1, 2011
Check out this recent article by David Lumb over at Patch.com…
It wasn’t long ago that David Trotter left his wife, his family, and his post as pastor at the church he helped found for an affair with a married woman. In a single swoop, he pushed away his friends, his family and his life’s work, and ended up checking himself into the mental ward of a hospital.
And now he’s built a business – books, videos and workshops – around that experience, teaching others how to climb out of the pits of their own making. It’s an approach that is not without critics – namely his former congregation and friends, who were unable to forgive him for the hurt he caused.
However, Trotter counts his mistakes among his qualifications for helping others.
“Not only have I been stuck myself, I’ve hit rock bottom,” Trotter said. “I have intentionally relaunched my life and my marriage, and, in the process, I’ve created a system for others to relaunch theirs.”
Trotter said the workshop is really for anyone who feels stuck. He aims to reach people who experience what he calls, “unedited moments in life when they’re lying in bed at night and they know they’re not experiencing all those moments they can from life.”
With short-cropped hair, a goatee and glasses, Trotter’s demeanor is casual – more like a barista than one who has spent his life evangelizing. He posts videos on his website each week in which his sermons are deeply personal. In discussing his affair, he is almost pathological in confessing every detail right down to the dates of his infidelity.
From his Seal Beach-based business, Trotter counsels others and tours with his workshop. He has written four books this year on the subject of “launching yourself,” and he’s built a business around consulting and speaking engagements on the topic. The lead pastor at Revolution Church in Long Beach when he left his family and his calling, the Trotters’ marital problems and his personal missteps were well-known in their community and highly condemned.
In his own journey back from his self-created lows, Trotter started by apologizing to his wife.
For her part, Laura Trotter expected nothing from her estranged husband, who had served her divorce papers the day he left her for another woman.
She watched from afar as he slowly pulled himself together.
He had checked himself into a mental ward for three days after the woman he left his wife for left him. All his visits with their children were professionally supervised.
Months of intense couples counseling followed. She poured out her hurt, and he listened. Six months after he walked out the door, Laura Trotter invited him to come back home.
“If you had asked me before, I would’ve immediately said, ‘Oh no, he’s outta there.’ But you never know until you’re in that situation,” Laura Trotter said. “I don’t regret that decision.”
Her decision was painstaking. It cost her every friend that hadn’t already left her life. She weighed divorce, but knew it would be emotionally traumatic for her and their two young children.
“My decision kept the family together,” Laura Trotter said. “I think, ultimately, I did make the right decision.”
The two are now, in their words, partners. Before the turmoil, the two were “married roommates,” said David Trotter. He worked 70-80 hours per week, while she taught kindergarten for Los Alamitos Elementary, in between years off to raise their two children.
“What happens is that people become delusional and think (someone else) is the best thing in your life, but it’s just a mirage…it’s a “great motivation to stay with my wife and improve our relationship,” Trotter said.
Now, he limits his workweek to 40 hours. They still attend marriage counseling once a month and keep a babysitter on retainer for their weekly Wednesday date night. In three years, they’ve skipped date night twice.
“Now, we have a close partnership,” Laura Trotter said, emphasizing the hard work they continue to put in to maintain the partnership. “I don’t know if we knew how to do that before.”
The Trotters speak casually but cautiously about the affair. After three years, they still discuss how it affected their lives, but speaking openly with new friends has been cathartic. However, they no longer speak to any of the congregation he helped found at Revolution Church. Trotter has yet to agree with the “higher ups” who oversee Revolution on acceptable terms to apologize to his congregation. Some from their old church won’t even walk by the Trotters if they see them on the street, they said.
“The big thing I’ve learned is you can’t change other people’s feelings,” Laura Trotter said.
Meanwhile, he’s forged a close fellowship with a small group that comes to a service held in his home every Sunday. Kelly Kissinger was brought in one Sunday in November by her boyfriend and came back for the honesty and openness of a service so small and intimate, she said.
As a pastor, Trotter freely integrates his journey through infidelity and back again into his sermons, Kissinger said.
Kissinger decided to take Trotter’s weekend seminar. Worried that the workshop would send her “bawling,” Kissinger said she was pleased to find it a process of personal introspection. Months later, the lessons have stayed, and she finds herself making short-term achievements and working toward long-term goals.
“I’m more content with myself,” Kissinger said. “I move past issues that I have.”
David Trotter said he doesn’t know how his life would’ve turned out had that woman not left him to return to her husband. Both Trotters still grapple with the effects of the affair. But through David’s books reflecting on his infidelity, people have emailed him and Laura to talk about being in or being a victim of an adulterous affair. In working with these people and talking them out of an all-too-familiar impulse to escape, Trotter said he has found catharsis in preventing another’s pain. For her part, Laura Trotter has helped others share the pain of finding out about infidelity.
“When we talk about our junk inside, we build it up to think we’re so alone,” she said. “I’ve helped people [who have] gone through similar situations. There’s healing in that.”