October 2004 – Rebecca St. James, often called the defining female voice in contemporary Christian music, would like nothing more than to satisfy her taste buds with a special Thai dish known as Tom Ka Kai, a coconut-based chicken soup.
However, this Grammy winner and two-time Dove Award recipient is into more than just the zest of Thai food. Her passions run deep as evident from her devotion to her family and her quest to be a safe, healthy, and empowered woman – two aspects of a Christian life that run hand in hand.
St. James became a Christian when she was eight years old after being brought to tears by the immensity of Christ’s love.
“It’s been a growing friendship and relationship and a deepening walk since then,” she told the AFA Journal.
At age 12, St. James committed her gifts and talents to the Lord. Soon after, she auditioned for a Christian rock band at her school, recorded a demo tape, toured with Christian music artist Carmen and recorded a praise and worship album in Australia.
Her career in the Christian music industry continued to flourish after St. James moved with her family to the United States from their native Australia. Her father accepted a position as a Christian manager in Nashville, Tennessee. She was 14 at the time but crossing continents didn’t halt this Aussie’s journey into the world of Christian music.
At 15, she signed with Forefront Records, which remains her present label. “It wasn’t like a big dream or passion . . . It was more God just opening up doors and showing me that this is what He wanted me to do.
“My life goal is to really love God with all my heart…. Whether that be through writing a book or a song or going on tour or whatever that involves, that is the real goal of my life – to be exactly where He wants me,” she explained.
The importance of community
Fulfilling such a goal is often easier said than done, as St. James knows from experience after having to learn the hard way. She explains with a story of personal experience in her soon-to-be-released book titled, SHE: The Woman You’re Made to Be (Available November 1, 2004, from Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.).
St. James reflects to the fall of 1999 when she had just finished an arduous 13-month tour prior to spending two months in Romania ministering to street children.
“I returned to Nashville feeling disoriented, emotionally vulnerable, and completely spent,” she writes. “So to partly clear my head and partly because of society’s pressure to be independent, I moved out of my family’s home into a tiny house in a quaint downtown section of Franklin, Tennessee.”
She was ready to conquer the world as Miss Independent, or so she thought.
“[Instead] I experienced the most horrible time of my life in the quietness of that house…. I believed the lie that I had to handle it all on my own, and in the process, every comfort zone I’d known was stripped away,” she further writes.
In her book, St. James continues with details of her experience to demonstrate the importance of family and community to one’s spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
“I don’t know that you can be an entirely safe, healthy, and empowered woman without having the family to the best of your ability – [meaning] family relationships in order.”
Valuing the wisdom God bestowed upon her through a society-induced quest for over-independence, St. James soon moved back home. She realized she was not created to be a lone ranger but part of a “community” where members rely on each other.
“From a very early age you understand community and connectedness and…the importance of fellowship,” she said of growing up in an open and honest family of nine. Unfortunately such openness is often lacking in families today where there is a breakdown in the camaraderie of the parents and the children.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2003, “Since older children may have more activities both before and after school, they are less likely than younger children to have meals each day with their parents.
“So it’s kind of a rarity it seems today when families actually have meals together,” St. James added. “But I think it’s so important to have that. Just knowing that I have that support and can go to my family…. It’s just a beautiful thing.”
Definition of family
As defined by St. James, the beauty of family is grounded in the belief that “family is a group or unit that God puts together. In its ideal form [it] involves a husband and a wife. Often today, unfortunately, with the breakdown of the family there are a lot of single-parent homes.”
The U. S. Census Bureau reported, “In 2002, 69% of children under age 18 lived with two married parents, down from 77% in 1980” (www.childstats.gov).
“God ordained the family to be husband and wife and children. That’s what I believe is the ideal unit of the family,” St. James added.
Further findings by the U. S. Census Bureau reflect the validity of her beliefs: “On average, the presence of two married parents is associated with more favorable outcomes for children both through, and independent of, added income.
“Children who live in a household with only one parent are substantially more likely to have family incomes below the poverty line, and to have more difficulty in their lives than are children who live in a household with two married parents (biological, step, or adoptive).”
St. James experienced such favorable outcomes in her family, not only because a mother and father were and are present, but because her family, both immediate and extended, are strong, committed believers.
“My whole family has been involved with my ministry to certain levels, and still are to certain levels…. I’m really, really blessed, and I think I would have quit a long time ago in music if I didn’t have my family’s support,” she said.
St. James identifies her mother and father’s godly parenting as the key to a loving family. “They really did the parenting thing right,” she added. “My dad has always…quoted Dr. [James] Dobson who said that the best way a father can show his love for his kids is by loving their mother. So my dad has done that very well….”
A family of her own
Values and parenting techniques such as these are ones St. James desires to cultivate in her future family some day.
“I think in most young girl’s hearts is a desire for her own family,” she explained.
However, there are many young ladies who reach womanhood without a ring on their fingers or a passion in their hearts. Loneliness sets in and the pressure to be independent becomes overwhelming.
Despite being surrounded by family, friends, fame, and fans, there are times when St. James struggles with loneliness as she moves into womanhood.
“…Sometimes I just genuinely long to see God face to face…. Part of my longing is my longing for Him, and then part of it is for the man I feel God is going to bring into my life and the future and the children I’m praying that He will bring to us,” she explained.
“I think it’s a godly desire to want marriage and family and so it’s something I don’t want to squelch, but at the same time I want to understand contentment in God and wholeness in Him without having to have somebody that makes me complete.”
St. James learned through her unsuccessful quest for independence that completion comes from being whole in Christ – the message she sends to the readers of her new book that is titled with the acronym SHE to stand for safe, healthy, and empowered.
“I had a vision for a book that would bring hope, life, and truth to women’s lives,” she said. “I feel like there are a lot of lies out there that our culture is feeding us from kind of a feminist agenda of over-independence to the beauty obsession….
“I wanted to look at these issues and go: Okay, what are the lies that our culture has fed us and what are the truths that can empower us to live and be the women that we were made to be – safe, healthy, and empowered women?” she explained.
In addition, St. James sees fulfilling her vision as a challenge to redefine feminism, changing it from being about freedom for women to being about freedom in Christ and from gender equality to gender quality.
St. James teamed up with co-author Lynda Hunter Bjorklund, a national radio show host and former editor of Focus on the Family’s Single-Parent Family magazine, to identify the lies of this culture and to present Biblical truths for overcoming them.
Together the authors are able to challenge women of all ages and all walks of life, since the two come from different backgrounds and are at different points in their journey through womanhood, and becoming the SHE God wants them to be.
“I’m on a journey too, and I think both Lynda and I really express that in this book,” St. James said. “We’re kind of coming alongside of women and saying let’s journey together.
“I think only in heaven with Jesus will we be completely safe, healthy and empowered, but we’re pressing towards that now.”
In addition to the upcoming release of her book, St. James will be part of the Adoration Tour with Newsboys and Todd Agnew later this year. She will enter the studio at the beginning of next year to record a new album to be released mid-2005.
Thematically, the album will focus on freedom, grace, and surrender as the artist goes back to her roots in rock to present more of an edgy, hardcore genre of music.
“I’m very excited about the direction of this album. I think it’s going somewhere real fresh,” she said – just like Rebecca St. James.
SHE leads its readers on a journey through womanhood by exposing the lies of Satan and uncovering Biblical truths necessary for living a joyous life in the midst of daily challenges.