NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Purity has long been an issue of great importance to singer-songwriter Rebecca St. James, and at the fifth anniversary of the release of her landmark single “Wait for Me,” she continues to show young people worldwide how to wait honorably for the spouse God may have for them.
The song, written by St. James as a pledge of commitment to her future husband, has inspired thousands of teenagers worldwide to remain sexually abstinent until marriage.
“I think deep down young people do know that waiting is the right way to go, and they just want encouragement to wait,” she told Baptist Press. “I think for a lot of girls that heard it, Wait for Me became kind of their song that they were singing to their future husbands that encouraged them to be strong. I also think we girls are such romantics at heart, and it’s a song that is romantic but also pure. I think that’s why it connected.”
Lots of young men have thanked her for recording the song too, St. James said.
“It’s a pretty well-known fact that guys would like to marry a virgin. I think the whole idea that a girl is singing that song and is waiting really appeals to them too and helps them to strive to be men of honor,” she said.
Richard Ross, co-founder of the True Love Waits abstinence movement, said the song has played a large role in the success of program.
“Wait for Me has been one of those pillar songs for True Love Waits. Both the words of the song and the purity of the artist behind it have carried great weight with Christian teenagers,” Ross told BP. “We know from the Reformation and the Great Awakenings that music fuels movements. Rebecca’s Wait for Me would be an example of that phenomena in our day.”
St. James said she first made a decision about purity at a True Love Waits rally in Peoria, Ill., when she was 16 years old and just starting out in the music industry.
“I saw a couple hundred other young people taking a stand for God, and I was so inspired by that but also really felt challenged to make that commitment myself,” she recounted. “I had grown up in a Christian family and I knew that was the right way to go, but I also knew that there was a lot of pressure on us as young people today to compromise in that area. So I wanted to make a commitment that really would help me to stand strong.”
Sometime after that rally, her father gave her a purity ring during a ceremony the family held at home. She still wears the ring to remind her of the commitment she made.
As she progressed in her music career and became a popular figure at youth rallies and True Love Waits events, she began speaking publicly about her goal of purity. Afterwards, she said, teenagers would gather around and share how thankful they were that someone else was waiting because that made it a little easier for them to wait.
“It was something that I saw was very need-driven, so I just kept talking about it,” St. James said.
Eventually, a song was born.
“The way that it actually came about writing-wise was I had had it on my heart for years to write a song about purity, and people would actually say when they’d heard my concert, ‘Why don’t you have a purity song because you speak so much about it?’” she said. “So it had been an idea in the back of my head, but the song had never come.
“I’m kind of one of those writers where I don’t sit down and say, ‘I’m going to write three songs today.’ I more write out of a point of inspiration, and I pray about my music and kind of wait on God,” St. James said. “So I was working on my ‘Transform’ album and I was actually very close to finishing the album and there was still no purity song.”
But then she attended a Christian festival in the Northwest where she happened to run into her friend Joshua Harris, author of “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.”
“He said, ‘So did you write a purity song for this album?’ I said, ‘No, not yet,’ and he said, ‘Well, I’m going to pray for you that you would write a purity song,’” she recalled. “And sure enough, within a week or two the purity song kind of landed in my lap. It took about half an hour to write and so Wait for Me was birthed out of that point of inspiration and Josh’s prayers and probably other people praying too.”
With its release in 2001, Wait for Me caught on quickly, and St. James said she has heard hundreds of stories of how it was instrumental in helping people keep their pledge for purity. Married couples tell her the song helped them to abstain from sex while they were dating, and some have even played it at their weddings because it meant so much to them.
In 2002, St. James wrote a book with the same title that expounds on the issues raised in the song. It addresses subjects such as guarding thoughts in order to make wise decisions where sex is concerned, why waiting for marriage is best, practical ways to wait in a culture that screams “Just do it!” and a Q&A on sexual purity.
St. James, a member of The Peoples Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in Franklin, Tenn., said churches have used the book during a Bible study for teens, and the Wait for Me journals are popular too because they lead students to write love letters to their future spouses.
“It just kind of helps the waiting process because you’re making something that you can one day give to that person, and then you realize, ‘Yes, I am waiting for somebody. They’re out there, and I’m writing to them,’” she said.
The book, which has been translated into three languages for use around the world, is being re-released this spring in a soft-cover edition.
Another lesson the song’s success has taught St. James is that youth yearn for a community of peers in facing the struggle for purity.
“Just about every time I hear of a young person that has slid down an immoral path, it’s because they’ve surrounded themselves with other young people who are not living the Christian life and are not committed to God’s way,” she said.
“On the other hand, I’ve also seen a lot of young people who have waited, and I think a large reason why they’ve had the strength to stand is because they’ve dated other people that are committed to waiting and they’ve had friends that have encouraged them in that commitment,” she said. “And I know for me, I have friends that are committed to waiting, and that encourages me too.”
When she first wrote the song, St. James said she didn’t exactly expect it to become as big as it is now.
“I knew the song would have a strong response because of its message, but I don’t think I could have guessed quite how strong that response was going to be because Wait for Me has become one of my signature songs now,” she said.
Jimmy Hester, who along with Ross founded True Love Waits, expressed gratefulness for St. James’ willingness to be a key spokesperson for sexual abstinence until marriage.
“Wait for Me is a statement of her belief and a testimony to many teenagers on the value of following God’s plan for sexuality,” Hester told BP. “The impact of this song and Rebecca’s consistency over the years has made an eternal impact on the lives of many students.”
For more information on True Love Waits, visit www.truelovewaits.com.