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What I Learned From a Party in Chicago

I didn't know what to expect. I knew these people were not Christians, and I knew they would at least be drinking, if not wildly drunk...


I found this file saved on my laptop from sometime in 2013, Chicago. I had nearly forgotten about the night and the feeling until I re-read it, so I wanted to touch it up and then add a little nugget to the end of it. I ended up cutting out over half of it to spare you the more graphic details! Hope you enjoy!

I begin tonight by praising God for the amounts of experiential blessings He gives me on a weekly basis. The people I meet, the things I get to do, and the amazing ways I get to take in His greatness is overwhelming!

After a wonderful show at the House of Blues, I walked back to campus only to find out that my friend Abby and I were going to a party. By this time, it was about eleven thirty at night, so we hustled over to the apartment. It was about a mile’s walk away, on the other side of the river.

I didn’t know what to expect. I knew these people were not Christians, and I knew they would at least be drinking, if not wildly drunk.

Abby and I came to the building and waited for our friend to come down and meet us. There were two girls in the lobby with us who were also waiting for someone to come down and fetch them to their apartment. Turned out that we were heading to the same party.

We walked in and I wasn’t surprised to be welcomed by a small crowd of costumed people (I was dressed as a Never-Nude from Arrested Development). Tony, the owner of the apartment who lived with his girlfriend was instantly extremely friendly. He shoved a drink in my hand and began explaining how to taste it properly. Another girl slapped two pieces of paper in my hand and told me to vote for my two favorite costumes. Another guy dressed up as a magician came over and began doing hilariously lame card tricks. I was laughing so hard at him. He was ‘The Most Depressed Magician Ever’, and the character he was playing was flawless.

“What’s your favorite card?” he asked Abby.

“Ace of spades,” she said.

It happened to be on top of the deck when he looked, so he showed her and in the most deadpan way possible, he said, “oh, wow. Look at that.”

We were dying.

…Maybe you had to be there.

The overarching impression I got from these people was that they were desperately nice and welcoming people. They made sure we got drinks and plenty of food, and then got to know us. It was as if I had left Bible school and found a place where people are ridiculously nice.

Not how it should be, right?

Later on, everyone was a little drunker and a little sloppier, and the party level was turned up a bit. Music was blasted and it was hard to hold a conversation. I stepped out on the deck to cool off and the two girls from the lobby happened to be there. They were wrapped up in each others’ arms, looking out over the city, whispering and kissing. One of them, Kim, was much more outgoing, and the other was more shy. Kim and I started talking about jumping off the building, and how high you can fall into water without getting hurt. I told them I wanted to jump off the porch and fall 40 stories. Not because I’m suicidal, but because I love jumping off of stuff and free falling. Then we talked about dogs.

I LOVED talking to Kim. She was one of the nicest souls I had ever met. I wandered back inside and was immediately approached by a girl dressed as Marylin Monroe in all white and a blonde wig. She introduced herself. Rachelle. We started talking and for some reason, I ended up asking her if she ever gets lonely. I asked if she can make friends easily now that she’s a college graduate looking for work as an actress in Chicago. She nodded and said it’s hard. Then she told me about how all the male friends in her life dated her, so they don’t talk anymore.

Rachelle was very quiet and reserved, the way people get when they have been hurt a lot. Like a piece of duck tape that gets stuck to a dozen different surfaces and loses its stickiness.

By this point, the gay couple was cuddling on the couch and the lesbians were sitting on the floor with their legs intertwined. They were kissing and giggling. Everyone else was dancing, smoking, talking, kissing, or goofing around. Kim and I talked more about tattoos, and the shy one listened nearby.

It’s one thing to stay in your comfortable bubble constructing a theology of homosexuality, and another to hang out at a party with them. “The Gays.”

I want to be free to learn from the lesbians kissing on the floor. I want to learn to love and accept people the way they do. I want to have the grace to make others feel valuable and unique and encouraged by being with me. Not only does it give them a better picture of what Christ is like, but it refreshes ME! It makes me feel more alive to simply let my walls down and love people. It’s crazy how that works.

When Abby and I left, she and our other friend wanted to take the train back to school. I told them I’d walk. I walked, and the entire time I was crying out to the Lord for clarity. I could not understand how people who did not know the Lord were so welcoming and genuine people, while the people at school felt so much more judgmental and picky about everything.

I stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts to meet up with my friend Eddie, the gay guy who works the weekend overnights. He told me his mom, Star, is in the hospital for something in her lungs. Then he gave me about forty donuts and muffins for free. I went back to school and waited for about twenty minutes for my friends to return by train (ironic, huh?).

When they came, the first thing they said was how much they loved me.

May we be people who love first and ask questions later. May our formulated opinions about people—or certain types of people—bend the knee to actually going out an loving those people. Hanging out at strange parties with them and asking them questions. May we be like Christ who, more often than not, surrounded Himself with tax collectors, prostitutes and SINNERS. Yet we act allergic to them.

Lord, help us love more like you love.



3 comments on “What I Learned From a Party in Chicago

  1. not to simplify, but this …. EPIC

  2. I swear it’s like you read my mind! I worked at a collegiate ministry in RI and as you probably know, the east coast is so different than the Midwest. I often asked myself these same questions during my time there. Incredible post, Ethan

  3. “I could not understand how people who did not know the Lord were so welcoming and genuine…, while the people at school felt so much more judgmental and picky…” What! It seems you don’t realize exactly what you just said here. Perhaps time for a little soul searching regarding the path your life is taking? Maybe religion ISN’T the answer; maybe the book with all the “rules” only makes things worse and, in fact, gives some people all the authority they need to hate and judge those who aren’t like them. I know how to be nice without being threatened with eternal damnation. Curious how you knew the other guests would not be Christians. What does that even mean? There are many kinds of “Christians”, tho not according to certain churches who have a “My way or the highway (to hell)” philosophy. Many non-believers are also non-drinkers, so I think your presumption on that point is small-minded and offensive. Surely you know that Christians drink, do drugs, and murder people at the same time that non-believers are behaving in a much more Christ-like manner all over the world. I’m not trying to be overly harsh or a d*ck about this; maybe I missed the humor or irony in your article? You seem to be old enough that these revelations shouldn’t be new to you at this point. Best regards from Indiana…

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