A Different Journey

Life seldom unfolds the way we envision it. Neither does the Word of God promise believers in Christ freedom from difficulties, trials, and adjustments. It does, however, give the assurance of God’s good and gracious plan even if the life we have is different from the one we imagined.

Many in the congregation of First Baptist Church Nashville know Becca Wildsmith as the wife of Tim, the student minister. For approximately three years, Becca has been part of the fabric of First Baptist Church, serving faithfully alongside her husband as well as establishing her own identity within the body of Christ.  But many church members may not know the unexpected turns her life has taken and how in the midst of them, God has proven faithful.

Becca grew up in church. Her hometown church embodies everything good about small town life.  People know each other and they care about the intricacies of daily events. More than simply sitting in pews together on Sunday, they rub shoulders at work, the grocery store, and the doctor’s office. They cry with one another and celebrate with one another. For Becca, her hometown church is not just the “community church”; it is genuine Christ-like community within the church, encompassing every age and generation. She hoped she could find a church with that same genuine spirit as she set out for Belmont University and the progressive city of Nashville.

While at Belmont, Tim Wildsmith raced across the pages of Becca’s life. They dated briefly but the relationship ended and the couple went their separate ways. Early on, Becca knew he was the guy for her but it would be six years after graduation before the two of them would reconnect. In September of 2011, Tim Wildsmith asked Rebecca Ann Hadzor to be his bride for life. She said yes.

Perhaps there is nothing sweeter than a young, Christian couple in love. Becca, like any bride-to-be, planned to jump headlong into wedding plans. She would choose a dress and flowers, a venue and food. She and Tim would find a place to live, a church that suited them and they would look forward to life together as husband and wife. But those good plans were abruptly interrupted, barely before they began, by an intrusive, unwelcomed visitor. Cancer.

She remembers standing in the lobby of her office building when she got the call from her doctor, “Becca, you have cancer.” She never dreamed life would unfold this way. She never imagined her ideal plans for engagement and a wedding would be interspersed with cancer surgery, radiation and doctor’s visits. Yet from the onset, she knew God had this. Instead of fear and panic, peace settled in. She could not foresee her future but Becca knew each day was in the hands of a good and gracious Savior. Her heart’s desire would be to face each day with grace and strength, always pointing others to Christ. Six months after her initial diagnosis, Tim and Becca stepped into marriage, tenderly balancing the uncertainty of cancer with the certainty of Christ.

Faith matures during adversity and Becca acknowledges during her bout with cancer she learned to lean into the Lord as never before. Looking back, she realizes her faith grew exponentially during the struggle. This was not the faith of her home church or her new church. It was not the faith of her family or her husband. This new and profound growth was her faith in her God. Somehow the Lord had used the intrusion of cancer to produce an unmatched vibrancy. One year after her diagnosis, and six months after becoming Mrs. Wildsmith, she got another call from her doctor, “Becca, you are cancer free!”

With thankful hearts, Tim and Becca planted themselves in a church which reflected their youth as well as the contemporary aspects of their city. They found other couples in the same stage of life. They enjoyed good teaching and expressive worship. But a leaning toward vocational ministry and the tugging of the Holy Spirit prompted them to hold loosely any future plans. Becca knew when they married, Tim sensed a call to ministry on his life. She assumed that call would reflect music since he was in the music business and also had experience as a worship leader. She imagined they would serve a church much like the one they were attending. But true to form, God had different ideas.

At the invitation of Tim’s friend Brandon Owen, Tim began to assist with music at First Baptist Church Nashville. That invitation extended to Wednesday night worship and activities with students. When Tim asked Becca to join him, she hesitated. She had seen the beautiful, stained glass windows and the majestic pipe organ. She knew First Baptist was a downtown church with years of great tradition. She just wasn’t certain this was her idea of community. With Tim’s encouragement and that ever gentle nudge from the Spirt, Becca joined her husband in volunteering with students. Eventually, Brandon transitioned to young adult ministry and Tim was asked to become the interim student minister. Meanwhile, Becca was falling in love with First Baptist Church.

The step from interim student minister to full-time student minister in 2013 has been a good one for the Wildsmiths. Becca has found the genuine spirit of community she hoped to find when she left her small town church years earlier. She senses the love of Christ at First Baptist Nashville. She watches multigenerational families interact with one another. Through her small group, she experiences older women pouring their hearts into younger women. She sees the body of Christ cry together and celebrate together. And even though her life has taken a route she would not have designed, it is the route God has ordained for this time and place and ministry. Regardless of how she got here—Becca is home.

When asked about her hopes for the future, both for herself and First Baptist, Becca gives a thoughtful answer. “I want our church to flourish. I want those outside the church to see past the stained glass and into the love and goodness inside.” She expresses her hope that each unique member of the body of Christ will work together, expanding the Kingdom of God. As for herself, Rebecca Wildsmith is resting in the Providence of God and placing her hope in Him. Certainly, life has not unfolded as she imagined, but true to His Word, God is faithful. “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans  to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV).