Kaitlyn Bagwell is a sophomore at UNA. She graduated from Corner High School near Birmingham and transferred from Wallace State. She is currently a major in Social Work and active in their on campus organization.
So what brought you from Birmingham to UNA?
My uncle and my brother both attended here. They knew the school and the area well so I wouldn’t get lost! I felt really comfortable transferring here.
What are some of your favorite things about being a student at UNA?
Even though I’m not from here, I feel accepted as family from other students. I have difficulty walking, and there is usually someone there to help me.
What is one thing you would change about school or the campus?
To be completely honest, coming from someone with MS, the walking is so difficult. The shuttle buses have definitely helped me and I don’t have to spend money on gas!
Without stepping out of line here, if I could ask, when were you diagnosed?
March 26, 2007. I remember the date very well. It’s kind of a big thing.
How supportive has your family been?
Well, I always lived with my mom, who is a rock. Some of my family that doesn’t live with me like my father still doesn’t really grasp it. They will still help me if I need it.
Tell me about your life growing up. Parents, occupation, siblings, etc.
I lived with both parents until their divorce in May something of 2000 though they separated in 1999. I was only 7 and in elementary school so it was a difficult adjustment.
Was your family active in church or religious when you were younger?
No, my family is not active in church, but my dad and step mom were very ‘religious’ – just not organized religion. My Dad grew up Church of Christ. Mom grew up in a Baptist Church in Adamsville. My Grandmother was Church of God. I had a little bit of everything and a lot to choose from.
Are you still active?
I tried when younger to be an active youth member. I got really acquainted with Bethel Baptist Church and was baptized in 2003. I’m kind of involved in Baptist Campus Ministries but realize we’re not all from the same background.
What is one thing you would change about organized religion?
The judgment of other religions. Specifically like Church of God, or the Baptists. They are very separate but I believe Jesus looks at all of us as being one. We all worship the same thing as a Christian. That was my biggest problem when I was a Christian.
Tell me about your personal belief in God.
Gosh, that’s a lot. I don’t know what is up there, but I believe there is a divine higher power. I want scientific proof that there is something, not just someone’s complete background from a seminary meeting or testimony. I would cry when someone gives their testimony. I am a definite crier. When I talked someone in Campus Ministries about my doubts about God and His Son, they would share their stories and I would get emotional but that’s about it. I would cry over any religion. I had an ex-boyfriend that was Islamic and attended his mosque and it was very empowering. I don’t see how different religions can be so different when they give me the same feeling.
Where do you draw your belief from?
I would say it all started when I was diagnosed with MS I didn’t think it was God who gave it to me. Because how could a God do that to anyone of any religion? I always thought it was the devil that did that. Everyone told me I would have a great testimony, but I don’t care about the happiness of other people. It sounds selfish I don’t care how it affects others. I’m the one having to go through it.
I use a walker sometimes, like a lot. People when they see me with a walker… I’m a typically happy person walking around with a smile. People are like that’s so inspirational but it’s not. I’m just being polite.
What does it take for someone to personally know God? Is it possible?
When I would personally know God it was definitely through prayer and meditation. This may sound cheesy, but for example by looking at this beautiful day. I feel there is something causing this beautiful day just like someone is causing me to have this, or whatever
Would you say there is a difference between a general belief and personally knowing Him?
A general belief is like what we see through America’s civilization. Everything is like In God We trust. A personal relationship could be like my situation like God is kind of a (expletive). Or it could be like God is beloved or blessed when you aren’t angry with Him … for selfish reasons. If He is there, I don’t think it’s just his fault. It’s that (expletive) Adam or Eve.
Do you consider yourself to be a good person? Why or why not?
Yes. I have compassion. I put myself in their situations. I make sure I am not going to offend people in any way. I feel like compassion is what makes me a good person. And I have a lot of it. Hence my major.
The Bible says in Romans 3:23 that every person is a sinner and falls short of God’s standard. Tell me what that means to you.
Heaven is a place that’s perfect. To get into heaven you have to be perfect. Just us by ourselves that we are not perfect. But through Jesus Christ we are perfect in the eyes of the Lord.
From a Christian perspective, what do you think about the claims of Jesus Christ in John 14:6: I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes unto the Father but by Me?
Well, there are a lot of people in the world that are screwed if that is the way to get through to God. There are a lot of people who are having questions about Christ being the Son. They will have to, you know, man up.
Personally I’m screwed. Right now, I have lost belief. I guess agnostic. I believe Jesus was there. He was a good guy. But I’m not sure if He was the Son of God or just crazy. Who knows? If He came today like He would be probably be killed. People would think He was crazy. If this is the return of Jesus Christ…I do believe there is an antichrist and he is going to make some noise. I hope Jesus won’t come back as when He did back then.
Would you say your struggle with belief really started with MS or what else played into that?
My struggle with belief started with the MS. It enhanced my belief in the beginning. At Wallace, some of the most of the hardcore Christians I knew had a huge problem in their life like a friend with epilepsy. MS is hell but that is pure hell. I had a seizure about a year or so ago, but not epileptic. He was severely epiliptec but he was a dynamic Christian man. What I have compared to his was nothing, and I’m (expletive). Another friend was slightly autistic but stood strong in his belief. They helped give me courage while I was there.
Have you found a group like that here?
There are very inspiring testimonies I’m sure. I haven’t really gotten to know a lot of the people there at the Campus Ministry yet because I am a skeptic. Bible verses don’t mean anything when I am sitting here in symbolic hell of not believing and, you know, disease.
Tell me what first comes to mind when you hear the terms ‘being saved’ or ‘born again’. If the Bible is true, what do you think it takes for a person to come to genuine faith in Jesus Christ?
I think…it would mean they have clarity in their life that they believe they are saved from damnation. But it also enables them to go through the biggest test of being saved under the Father from sin. After being saved you’re not through but have a whole journey ahead of you.
If the Bible is true, what do you think it takes for a person to come to genuine faith in Jesus Christ?
Ignorance. (Shakes head). I think people have different ideas of what the Bible says and take it different ways. How do we know what’s right to be truly ok with God? Truly accepted? Like, we’ll read the same verse from the Bible and take totally different connotations from it. Until then we just have to have faith what’s right.
We talked a moment ago about how every person is a sinner, no matter who they are or what they’ve done. Would you read three verses for me and tell me what they say to you?
Romans 5:8: But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. KJV
But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him. The Message
That one’s just plain as day. We’re just scum and this really cool guy died for us so we could go to heaven with God.
Ephesians 2:8-9: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. KJV
Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. The Message
I don’t know. I mean, that’s kind of the same. It’s…God gave us Jesus even when we turned our backs. He gave us the Son to save us. I mean we could be as good as we could but it doesn’t matter unless we accept Christ in our hearts. You could be the nicest person in the world but still be damned to hell. In essence it’s kind of like we aren’t good enough, why are we striving? We’re never going to be good enough with Christ.
Romans 10:9-10: That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. KJV
Say the welcoming word to God—“Jesus is my Master”—embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation. The Message
In a way, this verse says we aren’t good enough without Jesus. That last verse is just saying ‘Hey, it’s simple. Just accept Him.’ But not superficially accept Him. ‘Oh, know I’m a Christian’. You could then just go sin without hesitation. God knows what’s in your heart.
Exactly. I heard a pastor say once that some people will miss heaven by 18 inches. That’s the distance between their head and their heart. I grew up in church attending every Sunday, Wednesday, and youth group function. I could quote verses and knew all the songs but did not genuinely place my faith in Christ until my junior or senior year of high school. Can you recall a time in your life that you gave your heart to Jesus Christ? What would hinder you from doing so right now?
Gave my heart to Christ… I guess…I would think I had… I know we sin all the time but I know we’re more faithful on Sunday night than Monday morning. I feel like I had but some days I don’t. Trying to think here, maybe in 2005? I don’t know. My 8th grade year. I’m not sure now. I think after that day (diagnosed with MS).
My hang up is that I walk with a limp and have, you know, these difficulties. I can’t walk right. That would be something that would hold me back. I think that it sounds selfish that if God would heal me I would believe. God could heal all of his now and I would still have doubts. My human nature is holding me back.
That’s the thing a lot of people struggle with is feeling like they have to be perfect and never doubt or have questions. God is not shocked or put off when we struggle or have hard questions. We are all at different places on our spiritual journey.
Would you be interested in a simple seeker or discipleship life group once a week for 30 minutes?
A lot of groups like to do large events but Lion City wants to just meet people where they are. A lot of Christians just want to shove Bible verses at you and send you away but we learned a long time ago a conversation involves listening more than talking. Click here to find out more about Lion City life groups. If you would like to be interviewed for Faith & Doubt or talk anonymously on matters of faith email firstname.lastname@example.org.