Rebecca St James became the role model for the modern young woman long before there was a ZOEgirl, BarlowGirl or Superchic[k]. That is not to take anything away from the aforementioned groups but rather to give credit to the 28 year old young woman from Australia who has been taking a stance for sexual purity before marriage when others were still talking about more traditional themes during their concerts.
Pull up your chair and join me as I talk to the always personable Rebecca, a woman who has worked tirelessly as a singer, songwriter, narrator, author, editor, spokesperson for Compassion International and worn more additional hats than I have toes and fingers to count. She would be the first to tell you that God created the missive concerning sexual purity that she delivers to young women all around the world but she has carried the torch for the past twelve years of her life.
As we discuss the torrid pace that Rebecca has been on during this past year she laughs at the suggestion that she might slow down sometime in the near future. She dispels that notion saying she doesn't see that happening anytime soon. Her bookzine SHE TEEN was released on September 1st. Rebecca what exactly is a bookzine? "It's a very new concept. Have you seen the Bible Revolve? It's like a magazine but it's a Bible. It's similar to that as it looks like a magazine but it's a book. I'm really excited that it is in that format. Magazines are something that teen girls know. They know that format. It's approachable to them. It's an easy read and is not in any way intimidating. I think sometimes to a girl a book seems like a book that they have to read for school and it is just another text book. SHE TEEN being a bookzine has the content that a book would have with the same depth. (It has) stories from my life, (the lives of) Biblical characters and teen girls sharing their stories. It also has a lot of pictures and is very approachable. I'm hoping Christian teen girls will pick it up and be really encouraged in their faith." Rebecca also makes the point that this is not merely a bookzine for those already following Christ but she hopes it will reach those who have yet to make a decision.
Rebecca has remained firm in her stance that not only do we serve a God that calls us to a life of purity but he is a God of forgiveness who grants second chances. In SHE TEEN, "We are talking about being free from past hurts and not being caught in the web of the past and unforgiveness. We talk about our purpose as young women living for God. We talk about purity, dating and even things like cutting. Cutting is rampant in young girls' lives today and that is just expressing the hopelessness that a lot of them are feeling. We want to bring hope and healing to these girls' lives."
I wondered aloud where this passion comes from. "I decided to remain a virgin, practice sexual purity and take a stance for God in that way and it began when I was probably about sixteen. I think what held me in there and why I continued to share about this issue is because I've seen so many young people hurt by not waiting. They share their stories with me in tears about how they wish they had waited. Now I have the joy of hearing people who are married (tell me) how my music or a song of mine or hearing me share my testimony about purity in my concerts really helped them to stay strong and wait." Echoes of her song "Wait For Me" from the movie The Wedding Planner and featured on her album Transformed, "Darling, did you know that I / I dream about you / Waiting for the look in your eyes / When we meet for the first time / And darling, did you know that I / Pray about you / Praying that you will hold on / And keep your loving eyes only for me / 'Cause I am waiting for you, praying for you darling / Wait for me too / Wait for me as I wait for you /." Rebecca lives what she believes and believes in what she lives.
Rebecca continues, "Now they (the young women) are reaping the joys of that (waiting). Also I talk about forgiveness and second chances and if people haven't waited they can start over from now on. I think there is a tendency to believe that once you have had sex you have blown it and you might as well keep doing that. It is a lie from Satan and he wants them to stay in that sin. I am very passionate about wanting to encourage young people to be strong because I have seen kids having babies outside of marriage or struggling with diseases because of not waiting. It's just not worth it."
She says some of the more common questions her fans ask her concern, "How do I stay strong for God when there is so much pressure?" and "How do I live a pure life when there is so much compromise in that area?"
As she shares her answers with me it isn't simply rhetoric but she chooses her words thoughtfully, "The walk with God question I would probably answer just invest time in a relationship with God. It's like a friendship or relationship you have with anybody. You don't have a relationship unless you spend time with that person, coming to know them and speaking with them." She finds in her own life that spending quality time in prayer and reading the Bible lead to a clearer understanding of God's character and therefore lead to a more earnest desire to be like Him.
Rebecca says that in recent years she has gained a greater appreciation of the need for community. "We need to be in a good strong church to be strong in our Christian lives. We need to be involved in a strong group and have good friends around who are encouraging us to live for God. Those are some areas but also to understand that God loves us for who we are and we can't earn brownie points with God or make Him like us more by doing these things. We actually need to do them out of knowledge that He loves us and that we want to grow that love relationship with Him."
Rebecca offers some insights borrowed from personal experience concerning the purity issues. "There are lots of practical things that I can share about how to live in purity. To tie in with my other answer, by spending time with God as you are being purified on the inside through the Bible and through prayer it makes it way easier to live a pure lifestyle. I think having friends around you who are taking that same stand is really important. Setting up boundaries in your relationships where you aren't going to cross a certain line. I have a boundary where I put a shoe in the door or leave the door open if I am alone in a room with a guy so someone can walk in at any point. There is accountability there. I don't go in my bedroom obviously with a guy. I think things like that really help."
She speaks with the same enthusiasm about Sister Freaks a book for which she acted as editor. She literally gushes when she talks about how relatively easy the life of an editor is compared to being the author. "It was much easier than being the writer, even a lot of the day to day editing was being done while I was reading it. It was very very easy compared to She Teen." She is even more enthusiastic about the content, "I am so excited about the concept of this book and that's why I am so behind it. We need to be reminded that there are so many sisters in Christ that we have around the world that are just walking through the fire, that are being hurt or killed for their faith. Yet sometimes we think that we have it hard over here and our lives are so cushy and easy compared to the rest of the world. I think it is very encouraging for us to read these stories. Some are of martyrs, some are of women still living under persecution or taking a real radical stance for their faith. Some are from hundreds of years ago while some are modern day. It just really encourages us that we can stand for God in our lives as well but also to not take the freedoms that we have for granted. I think this (Sister Freaks) is a wonderful tool for any Christian woman." Sister Freaks hits the shelves on October 5th.
A while ago I invited you to join us in this conversation and you have been probably wondering when we are going to get around to talking about the music that made this beloved rocker so popular when she burst upon the American scene so many years ago. On November 22nd her long awaited album If I Had One Chance to Tell You Something will be released. This CD marks the return to her rock roots and the title was born out of her concern for a friend of hers from college days. She learned recently that he had fallen away from his commitment to Christ and she shared with me that she spent some time thinking about what she would say to him if she had just one chance.
She laughs heartily when I tell her that nobody rocks like Aussies and says, "Thank you I am glad you feel that way." Rebecca is excited about her new CD and tells me why, "I think part of it is the new place and balance that I am into personally. I am operating more on overflow now rather than running on empty as I have in the past when I had to write an album (at a time when) I just had nothing left. There is a real sense of celebration and freedom that comes through in the writing. Also I think that I have headed back to my rock roots on this project as well. I love rock music. It's passionate and it matches my passionate lyrics. We are just finishing up the album now. We are mixing some of the songs and adding the finishing touches. I am just thrilled with how it is coming together both musically and lyrically. I've really seen God's hand in providing the songs."
Do you have some favorite tunes from this CD? "Yes let's see which ones I would like to major on because I feel passionate in different ways about the entire album. There is a song called "Alive" which is the first single and it really represents where I am at. It's a song of celebration that says God makes us come alive but it is only when we let go of what we want in this life that He makes us come alive. It's that whole thing of dying to self and becoming alive to God. I really enjoy that song. It's a real rockin' roll kind of song." By the time you read this "Alive" will have made its debut on the Christian charts (released September 9th).
As she continues to speak about the album Rebecca notes, "I've really sought themes that are relevant and that I hope will hit home in people's livesóand I've done so by speaking from the reality of my own life."
I would like to stay and talk to you more Rebecca about your song on the upcoming Chronicles of Narnia CD or the tour you are planning with BarlowGirl in 2006 but I think you wore me out. Before I go Rebecca I am curious how you stay so close to God while leading such a busy life. "I've hit near burn out a few times and I feel that I have learned the hard way the importance of rest and saying no. Where I think that pertains to my walk with God is if you are constantly running on empty emotionally and physically that is going to affect your spiritual life because you are way more susceptible to getting discouraged about things when you are distracted by your own imbalance or your own pain. You can't focus on God to the same level. Having a daily time with God and reading the Bible or a devotional book encourages me and is important to me. Now I take time every year to go on a sabbatical where it's just quality time for God to just pour into me and renew me. I've found the more that I am keeping those levels topped up and filled up the better I can operate in my ministry and the more I can operate out of overflow instead of underflow or empty."
For more on Rebecca St. James, visit www.rsjames.com.
Writer: Joe Montague