Conviction: Starting over with a new religion
When psychology senior Saira Ramirez lived in California, she went through a divorce and a transformation of faith.
She decided to start attending church. The only being that it would not be a Catholic church, the religion she practiced growing up — she never felt anything from the weekly mass.
“It was very repetitious,” Ramirez said. “Sometimes I would get something form a sermon, but it was so far-fetched and I didn’t really feel like I could apply it to my life.”
Baptist Student Ministry Director B. J. Ramon said that religion is often an attempt people make toward making “ourselves approved or disapproved by others and, or, God.”
“We throw ourselves into the competition and work so hard to obey the rules and rise to the top of that certain religion, only to fail or have our emptiness resurface,” Ramon said. “It seems (that) others find contentment in religion, so we jump to another religion because somewhere in there must be happiness or validation.”
Ramirez was 23 when she first stepped into a Christian church, and when she entered, she said it had a homey feeling.
“There were a lot of happy people from very different backgrounds, and it was a very new age-type church,” Ramirez said. “They had a live band, and nothing at all to what I was used to.”
Ramirez said that is when she felt the conviction.
“Every time I went to church, the first song would start playing, and it didn’t matter what song was playing — I would be in tears,” Ramirez said. “I (wasn’t) able to sing along the first couple of weeks.”
Ramirez said that every time she went to church, she felt like the pastor was speaking to her.
“It was the same thing, spot on, every Sunday,” Ramirez said. “It was something we could apply to our lives that could help us change and actually start showing something from it.”
Ramon said some people will leave religion altogether, finding it just as empty and un-fulfilling as life without religion.
“Maybe they think, ‘Hey, without the constraints of religion, I can truly pursue personal happiness,’” Ramon said.
But for Ramirez, the conviction hasn’t stopped.
“You feel the joy, the love, and just goodness,” Ramirez said. “Going to a Christian church, it’s like ‘Woah! That’s what I’m missing.’ It’s like a stirring of a lot of emotions: it’s joy, it’s sadness, because you know that there’s something missing.”
Ramon said one issue that comes up a lot is the difference between condemnation and conviction.
“Condemnation is more like the cloud that covers (and) says, ‘You are bad,’ where conviction is more specific and says, ‘You did something bad’,” Ramon said. “I believe upon belief in Jesus we receive His spirit which begins to convict us of things that do not align with the decision we made to trust in Him rather than ourselves.”
Ramirez held off on her Christian baptism until she felt she was ready. Leading up to her baptism, there was a sermon that she said radiated through her.
“It was, ‘Yes, now’s the time,’” Ramirez said. “It’s like, ‘I’m done with all this conviction. It’s drowning me. I need that baptism’.”
And Ramirez said the baptism came at a perfect time, as she was feeling pressure from her family, who continue to practice Catholicism.
“They were like, ‘You were already baptized, you were raised (like) this,’ but I said, ‘Yes, but this is my walk with God,’” Ramirez said. “And no one can take that way from you.”
Right before Ramirez was baptized, she was already in tears.
“It was such a good experience,” Ramirez said. “As soon as I went out there, they have you do the good confession, which is ‘Jesus is the Christ, and he is my Lord and savior. So you say that, and (you’re) accepting him into your heart. They take you down into the water, and (bring) you rising up.”
Despite the clean slate after baptism, Ramirez knows she and others will still stumble and fall.
“You’re going to feel imperfect, and the thing is, everyone can still turn away from that,” Ramirez said. “And accepting that and taking that into your heart gives you that hope; that refueling that you need to be able to move forward.”