Few people are as accomplished in life as Shawn Derritt. In addition to holding a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology from the University of Kansas, he has over 20 years of experience as a worship leader and has written over 80 praise and worship songs. But just seven years ago, Shawn was on the brink of losing his family as he confessed to his wife that he had an affair – with a man.
For a great part of Shawn’s life, he has struggled with same sex attraction and homosexuality. It is something he has admittedly fought since childhood. In his book, Christ Inner Healing, Shawn describes his early journey to find help. “I looked to the world and the church for answers only to find from the world an answer that I could not live with and from the church an unwillingness to acknowledge my plea for help.”
Shawn’s latest music project, Thank You, highlights many of the triumphs and trials he has gone through in his life. Writing or co-writing 13 of the 14 songs on the project, Shawn displays a grateful heart through lyrics of honest introspection, wrapped in a soulful package of genuine worship. The new radio single “I’m Not Turning Back” is a straight-forward song of declaration.
“The Bible says that we overcome by the blood of the lamb and the words of our testimony,” says Shawn. “Too many times in our Christian walk, we watch God deliver or rescue us from a battle with sin, but then we move ahead without declaring or making a statement that the struggles and defeats of the past are now behind us. This song is my proclamation that I’ve made up my mind to follow Jesus and I am not going to give into the things of my past.”
Indeed, since his painful confession to his wife, the Derritts have walked an emotional road that has included marriage counseling, heart-wrenching prayers, and nights of sheer despair. Though his wife, Saskia, knew of his struggles before they were married in 1996, she was unprepared for the journey they were about to endure. In their newest book, Naked and Unashamed, the couple offers their individual viewpoints during those dark days, showing the impact of sexual sin on each spouse. But through it all, both Shawn and Saskia trusted that God was able to heal and restore their marriage. “I was hurt so deeply,” Saskia recalls, “I lay in a fetal position on our bed and cried for hours, from deep within my soul. Shawn had not only sinned against God, but he had sinned against my inmost being.” But Saskia held on to her faith. “God allowed me to see Shawn’s heart and his desire to be free and right before God. I knew that as long as Shawn loved God, God would take care of us.”
Thanks in part to Shawn’s musical talent, doors of opportunities have opened for the couple to spread their very personal message of healing and forgiveness. The Thank You CD was recently nominated for Best Gospel Album by the Independent Music Awards, a widely recognized and acclaimed international organization. Shawn has appeared at many high-profile events near his home in Kansas City, Missouri, including being the featured artist at the Kansas City Chiefs' Faith and Family day. Shawn was a finalist for the 2008 Rock The Light Talent Search at Starlight Theater, the featured artist for the 2009 University of Central Missouri’s MLK Gospel Concert, and a featured artist at the 2009 King Cat Music Awards where he was nominated in three categories (Inspirational, Male Vocalist, R&B), taking home the Best Male Vocalist of the Year award. Last year, Shawn became a top 10 finalist in both the Star 102/Verizon Talent Search as well as the Best of The Blessed national contest.
"I understand the battle..."
Their poignant and candid books have given Shawn and Saskia occasions to speak to various groups including women’s retreats and marriage workshops. And neither shy away from answering the tough questions regarding their journey. Shawn offers words of encouragement to people who struggle with same-sex attraction as well as practical guidelines to seek help.
“Be broken enough that you are willing to seek help,” he says. “Find a faith-based organization that will provide teaching and support as you learn to walk out your belief in God's ability to change your desires. Surround yourself with people that will support your belief and hold you accountable. Cut out the things that were once a part of your old life and that kept you there. And develop your relationship with God through prayer.
“I understand the battle that many men and women go through on this issue. Though I don't believe that one is born gay, the feelings can be so strong that you feel that you just can't seem to fight the desires and thus it will feel like you are denying who and what you are. However, a lot of this has to do with the complexity of how our sexuality was shaped by social issues, peer issues, the types of things we were exposed to as children and other factors. The challenge to separate those experiences and the effects that they have on our sexual desires takes time.”
Shawn also offers some counsel to church leaders as they seek to find ways to minister to those struggling with homosexuality. “I think that it is important as Christians that we make sure that the gay community knows that, though we don't agree with their beliefs, we love them and God loves them. I am living proof of the mercy and grace God offers to people regardless of their sin. I think the church has felt that if they love the homosexual unconditionally that it means they are accepting the sin. That’s simply not the case. God loves us all unconditionally. While we were yet sinners, he sent His only son Jesus to die for us. He didn’t wait for us to become right before He loved us. He loved us while we were at our worst. And love covers a multitude of sins.”
So what can the church do to help those who struggle with various sexual sins? Shawn believes it starts within the four walls of the church itself.
“Our men need to be honest and compare the false definitions of manhood given to us by society to God’s definition. Our women need to be healed of rejection and abuse that steam from past relationships. Sex within a marriage, as God designed it, is a giving of one spouse to the other that is not only physical, but an exchange of the spirit and the soul. When the church can be honest and discuss the struggle within its walls –whether it be porn addiction, adultery or homosexuality-- then it can start to reach a world that is sexually-broken. We, as Christians, need to realize that God’s holiness and greatness is not undermined by our weakness. His strength and power is certainly not fueled by our goodness. We need to get honest and stop pretending we have it all together. He doesn’t need us to be God, but we need Him. He is the great restorer.”