(Photo: Ben Smallbone)
Even after a full day of interviews, 21 to be exact, Grammy award-winning artist, Rebecca St. James was as delightful as ever, perhaps because love was in the air.
In the midst of promoting her new album, I Will Praise You, the 33-year-old Australian-born native who recently got engaged stopped to talk with The Christian Post about life, love, and faith.
CP: Well first of all, I don’t really know the story of how you and Jacob met.
St. James: We actually met through mutual friends, and really because of a philosophy group that I was involved with in L.A. that I started attending through my roommate. [I] really felt a kindred spirit with this group of people. Two of his closest friends were in this philosophy group so it was kind of fun that we met through [that]. There was an instant connection with him. We dated for the majority of last year and got engaged on Christmas day. He proposed to me on my parents’ farm in Tennessee in the snow. It was very, very magical and he gave us just the most beautiful and romantic story.
CP: What does this new marriage mean to you as a champion for abstinence until marriage?
St. James: Marriage to me means unity, it means strength because I believe that both people can be stronger in their calling because of each other, and I really see that in Jacob and my individual lives – that we’re stronger together.
I believe that marriage is a representation of Christ and the church and when Christ and the church are unified, they are the strongest and most attractive to those that don’t know Jesus and I also think that when husband and wife are united, they are strongest and most attractive to those that don’t know Jesus.
We have a real desire to be glorifying to God in our life and our coming marriage. I just believe that marriage is a beautiful representation of God’s love for us and that there is such a cherishing that can happen in marriage that is different from any other relationship.
CP: Now that you have a fiancé, is it easier or harder to believe in the message of abstinence?
St. James: In some ways, it’s easier to, with my whole heart, believe in the absolute beauty of purity now that I’m engaged. I always knew that God’s way was the best, that I wanted to wait, and that I valued purity. But now seeing the end of the story of that waiting period, and then us about to begin a whole new adventure in marriage, it’s just a very exciting and fulfilling time. I’m just so thrilled to be able to see God tie that beautiful bow on this waiting story.
CP: I had read in an article before of how you dreamed of marriage but you had to hand over that control of your dream to God. What advice do you have for all the single girls who are still waiting and how do we practically practice waiting and trusting in God fully?
St. James: I think there’s a real delicate balance that God calls us to when we’re single. I don’t think he calls us to put our dreams on the shelf to the level that we’re just dead to it because then we’re not being true or honest. I think God calls us to come in our vulnerability as singles to God and say ‘Lord, I long for this, I really desire to be married, but I trust you with this dream.’
It was probably five years ago or so that I felt God was calling me to hand over my dreams to him on the level that I almost had to grieve the possibility of not ever marrying; grieve how that would feel if I never got married. And to commit to God that I would trust him even if he required that of me, which just seems like the ultimate in sacrifice.
But I think what ended up coming on the other side of that was this peace; that if he knew there was some reason why it was better for me not to be married, and I didn’t know the reason but he did, I would just trust his heart and continue to serve him and be looking to him for that love and encouragement I needed.
We can really learn a lesson while we’re single in just relying on God for what we need, not looking to a guy for that, but also being in touch with our heart’s desire as well.
CP: How has your definition of love changed after you met Jacob, if it’s changed at all?
St. James: In this new album, there’s a song called “The Kindness of God” and really in that song, I’m talking about just the kind, gentle elements of God’s nature that really woo us to him.
I think what I’ve really seen with Jacob is the way that he loves me is a very gentle and receiving love that is understanding, kind, and compassionate. In that way, he’s really shown me the elements of God that I knew were there, but he’s kind of a human representation of God showing that to me.
CP: Was Jacob the man you’ve been dreaming of?
St. James: I don’t think I ever could have dreamed that somebody would just bring such a calm to me. I find him so soothing to be around; that’s something I never anticipated in a person. There’s just a home element to him. It’s like when I’m around him, I just drink in his presence because he’s just so soothing to me personally.
CP: How has God met or exceeded your expectations for a husband through Jacob?
St. James: I dreamed up a lot of things. I dreamed of being very attracted to my future husband, and I’m extremely attracted to him. I dreamed of having lots of fun together and being able to be goofy and be accepted, that’s all there. I dreamed of being able to share my thoughts and feelings and hopes without thinking they were going to make fun of me and think I was silly, and I have that. So you know he has exceeded my expectations and I have pretty high expectations. He’s a pretty wonderful man to live up to those.
But I also know that marrying at this particular age, both of us know that neither of us is going to be perfect and I think [there’s] grace in that. Going in with that understanding is also really helpful because you can’t expect that person to be on all the time or to meet every need or to be able to guess what you’re thinking and I think that will really help our marriage to know not to expect someone to be like God; God is the only true faithful one.
CP: It’s funny that you say now that you’re older you know you’re not going to be perfect. Usually as people get older, expectations get higher and higher, and that perfection is more desired. How did you come to that conclusion?
St. James: [While] studying for a book that I wrote last year called What is He Thinking… I read this book called Marry Him. It’s not a Christian book, but it was just fascinating. She said that the sense of entitlement that we have as woman is really, really a detriment to us. It’s almost like if we’ve lived our life in a certain way, then we expect these guys to have it all absolutely together.
We’re upset if they’re losing a little bit of hair or if they’re not the best communicators on the phone right away. If they make one mistake on a date, we wipe them out. Even sometimes our preconceptions of what we think we need is different to actually what we do need, so we’ve got to be more open and give guys more of a chance.
She said it’s a classic girl thing to do: to see one little thing that doesn’t line up and we just don’t give them a chance. I think that really challenged me. I have struggled with perfectionism and I think it’s a really damaging thing in my own life. When we put that perfectionism on someone else, it just hurts relationships whereas grace and trusting someone else’s heart is a really, really incredible and important part of any relationship.
CP: Should single girls date to look for that special guy or just wait for “the one?” What were you like with Jacob?
St. James: I think with relationships you have to risk getting hurt. You have to learn to almost know how to let your heart go when that time comes for that right person. You have to be open to having a friendship with somebody of the opposite sex [even though it might not work out.] We can’t let fear keep us from being open to relationships.
I sometimes think that as singles it’s easy to bind to this mentality that my future husband’s going to ride up on a white horse, I’ll know that he’s the one, and we’ll start our life together. That happens to people once in a blue moon. I have heard of that – never really dated anyone and then this person comes along – but it’s not probable that that would happen. Most people have to date or court other people before they meet the one.
For me there was a process. I dated and courted quite a few different people before I met Jacob and I think dating those people (and we were honoring to God in purity and otherwise) helped me be a better girlfriend and better fiancé to Jacob. I don’t think courting and dating is a liability. I actually think it can be a blessing.
CP: How did you know that Jacob was “the one?”
St. James: The way that I knew that he was the one for me was because he was so cherishing of me. I think it takes a truly strong man to cherish a woman and I think my heart was only free to be able to truly fall in love when I saw that he was strong enough to be able to cherish me.
CP: Is there any fear that you have in getting married or are you just calm and peaceful? No cold feet?
St. James: I would marry Jacob today [if I could]… I think the only fear that I have in getting married is what if I’m not enough or what if I’m not prepared enough, because I’m the kind of person that likes to be prepared. And really with marriage, from what I’ve heard about from different friends that are married, you can’t entirely be prepared. There are things you can only learn in marriage.
I think for me the biggest thing that God is teaching me is to just let go of control, to trust him that he will teach both Jacob and I what we need to learn, when we need to learn it. It’s a day-by-day trust experience. Realizing too that marriage is like the Christian life, in that we don’t just make a one-time commitment to Jesus, and then that’s it for the rest of our lives.
We make a daily commitment to Jesus to be his and it’s the same thing I believe in marriage. It’s not just that I’m saying “I do” to him on our wedding day; I’m saying “I do” to him for the rest of our lives. I’m saying “I will honor you, cherish you, I’m yours” for everyday of our lives until we go to heaven.
CP: What are you and Jacob doing this Valentine’s Day?
St. James: We’re actually going to be in Australia. He’s working down there so I’m actually going down to hang with him and introduce him to my extended family. I’m very excited about that.
CP: So do you know if he’s preparing anything?
St. James: I don’t… no! He’s working that day so I don’t know how much special we’re going to be able to do so I’m keeping my expectations low but I’m just so, so happy to be with him on Valentine’s Day. It’s our first Valentine’s Day together because we met very soon after Valentine’s Day last year. So it’s going to be super, super special just to even be around him, just to see him, just to be with him on that day, especially in my homeland and in my hometown, Sydney.
CP: So your new album is coming out soon and it’s been five years since the last one. How have your faith and your music changed? What should we expect with this new album?
St. James: I feel like God’s doing a revolution in my life. I feel like he’s just been teaching me so much about surrendering control to him, not living in fear, about his redemptive story in my life, worshipping in the hard times, about his kindness and gentleness which is probably what draws me to him more than anything else … all these themes are coming up in the album. There’s a song called “You Make Everything Beautiful.”
CP: I love that song!
St. James: Oh good! Yeah that’s like my favorite! We’re singing that at our wedding, or my brothers are going to sing that on our wedding day actually. That song is all about beauty and letting God beautify us from the inside out. It’s also about God redeeming pain in our lives. That song just means so much to me. The album is a worship album but it’s also very topical.
CP: Before you go, is there one quote that you live by in regards to love that you can share with all the readers?
St. James: I think the biggest thing that God is teaching me about loving Jacob is to love God first. And that I can only love him truly well when I love God first and foremost; then I’m free to love Jacob well. So that would be my love quote: love God first.
Rebecca St. James’ new album will be out in stores this April – the same month as her wedding. We wish her and her soon-to-be husband, Jacob, a Happy Valentine’s Day, and all the days’ hereafter.