IN THE WAITING ROOM WITH
REBECCA ST. JAMES
Interview by Scott Harrup
In 2005, Rebecca St. James was again named “Favorite Female Artist” in Contemporary Christian Music by readers of CCM Magazine. Readers of Campus Life magazine recognized her as “Best Female Artist of 2005.” With sales of her music soaring around the globe, she remains true to her signature blend of modern pop/rock sensibilities and lyrics of unwavering devotion. But life is no fairy tale for St. James. She talked recently with Scott Harrup, associate editor, about the continued challenge of discovering God’s next step for her ministry.
SCOTT HARRUP: When did you first believe that God was leading you into music ministry?
REBECCA ST. JAMES: Around the age of 12. I was going to a Christian school in Brisbane, Queensland, in Australia. At an assembly, they asked young people to give their gifts and their talents to God. I prayed, “God, I don’t know what I have to give You, but here’s me.” That year, God started to lead me into music.
SH: What were some divine mileposts that helped you to keep moving in that direction?
RSJ: I auditioned for a Christian rock band. I was the youngest member in the group, but they accepted me. God took hold of that gifting in my life and started to lead me that way. Doors continued to open. I joined another group and began to record songs.
My dad was a concert promoter, so I got to meet Christian artists when they toured Australia. Carman invited me to tour as his opening act. My dad’s involvement with the music industry for 30 years made him the perfect manager. He’s protected me from a lot of the negative experiences that are out there.
When we moved to Nashville, I was singing at different churches. Eddie DeGarmo [formerly of DeGarmo and Key] saw my show and offered me a development deal with the record label he represented.
It was all God-ordained. I’ve seen God continue to open doors and to stretch my heart for ministry.
SH: It sounds like God helps us discover His will through the people He brings into our lives.
RSJ: Absolutely. All along the way people have held my hand and walked with me through different parts of this journey. God brings these relationships and there’s a spiritual connection He builds between us. When people tell me they believe God wants them involved in music ministry I tell them, “Pray for the right team. Pray for God to surround you with people who can partner with you.” And that relates to whatever you believe God wants you to do. Pray that He brings the right team together because you can’t walk that calling alone.
SH: You’ve seen your ministry expand. Could you talk about the publishing projects you’re involved with?
RSJ: The whole book-writing ministry is a God-thing too.
I’m the oldest of seven kids, and our family was looking for a devotional book that could relate to a broad age-range within a family. We couldn’t find one. My dad suggested that I start jotting down thoughts I could include in a devotional book because there really was a need for such a book and God might provide the opportunity for us to publish it.
One of my first interviews was with Empowered magazine, and the man who interviewed me was also with Standard Publishing. They asked me to do a devotional book. God put that concern in our hearts and then brought the right person to make it happen.
Among the books I’ve written over the years have been a couple of devotional books, a book on purity, a book called SHE to encourage women to be safe, healthy and empowered, and most recently Sister Freaks, a book I edited about women who were willing to sacrifice everything for the gospel.
SH: Let’s shift gears. You’ve also spoken about the dream of marriage and children. Where do you see God taking you in that part of life’s journey?
RSJ: Marriage and a family is something I’ve really desired, but have given over to God. I’ve said, “Lord, if this is Your will for my life, to be married and have a family, please provide that right person in Your timing.”
A year or so ago I went through a season where I was becoming a bit upset with God that my Prince Charming hadn’t arrived. God really called me to let go of that dream so that it wouldn’t consume me. Once I gave that to God and trusted that He would look after me and bring fulfillment to my life, I’ve known so much contentment and joy.
If we have a dream that we hold on to too tightly, it starts to consume us. But if we keep our hand open and give that dream to God, then it can be something that continues to motivate us.
SH: What would you say to encourage someone to tune in to what God has planned for his or her life?
RSJ: I have a song on my latest album, If I Had One Chance to Tell You Something. The main message of that album is that we are loved, and the song “You Are Loved” really focuses on that.
God has spoken to me in the past couple of years that I need to understand just how much He loves me. He truly has the best plan for me. If I trust Him, then I can see so much freedom and so much hope for the future.
A lot of young people have been hurt, whether through the breakdown of their family or through the lies of our culture that would write them off in some area. They don’t know whom to trust. I would encourage anyone in that position to first say, “God, I trust that You love me and that You are going to direct my life as I surrender it to You.”
Another song on my album is “I Can Trust You.” It hurts to release to God the things that are closest to us. But when we do let go of them, we experience freedom. When you trust God with your dreams you will see Him bring about an incredible adventure in your life.
SH: You’re going to Rwanda soon. By some estimates, 1 million people died there in the mid-1990s. Where do you find God in the midst of unimaginable tragedy?
RSJ: That is the true test of our faith, when we are in the midst of something tragic in our lives and we’re hurt and bewildered and can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel but we still stand on faith and say, “God, I know You’re there and I know I can hope in You.”
Sometimes we feel like we have to battle things out on our own and keep our struggles to ourselves. But God wants us to hold on to the community found in the body of Christ. Yes, we cry out to God for comfort and for Him to be in the midst of the fire with us, but we must also reach out to others and be vulnerable about our pain.
Christians in Rwanda have shared their pain and allowed it to connect them in community with one another like they never have been before. In the midst of tragedy, cling to God and embrace community.
SH: What have you discovered about your faith at 28 that would have blown you away at 18?
RSJ: The incredible power and beauty of mentoring. I have a mentor who has offered me wonderful counsel for a couple of years now. She has been an incredible blessing. I wish I had known at 18 how important it is to have that kind of relationship. I’ve had wonderful parents. But there comes a point where we need someone outside of our family who can expand on our parents’ wisdom and experience.
SH: Any final word of encouragement for someone reading this?
RSJ: I read a book this past year called The Healing Path by Dan Allender. It’s a book about pain. Allender makes the point that we need to readdress our thinking on pain. Often we avoid it like the plague. By doing that, we sometimes shut ourselves off to things God wants to accomplish in our lives. We can use pain to discover hope and joy.
Instead of resenting the difficult seasons in my life, I’m trying to approach them with this prayer: “Lord, I know that You will use all things to work together for good in my life. I trust You with that. I’m going to attempt to walk through this season with joy knowing that You will fulfill that promise.”
Another song on this last album is “Shadowlands.” God is walking with us through the shadowlands, but He’s bringing us into the sun.
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