By Alexis Baldwin
I first learned what Unofficial Weekend was in the early days of Portuguese class this semester: “It’s a weekend where people go to parties and drink a lot,” one of my classmates informed the class. As a freshman on campus, I had never heard of this tradition, but I was intrigued.
I didn’t anticipate being interested in parties when I initially came to the U of I because I’m not really a big crowds type of person. But when the first friends I made on campus were very interested in alcohol and parties, I said, “what the heck?” and went out with them, walking around at 2 or 3 AM between houses and apartments filled with dancing and drinking.
But the Friday night before Unofficial Weekend, we talked about something during my small group home meeting that really affected me. We discussed how Jesus is inside of us as the Holy Spirit. Therefore, when we do something that makes him sad, we will be able to feel his sadness, and when we do something that pleases him, we will feel his joy. It’s like a kind of intuition that we gain through following Christ, but we have to tune into our spirit to hear what he has to say to us. Although I already understood that through the Spirit, we inherit Christ in our spirit, it never occured to me to listen to the Spirit as we experience life. Since that meeting, I couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling I had about choosing to attend a few parties with my dormmates during the upcoming weekend. I decided to tell my friends, “I can’t go partying anymore.”
This could have been the end of the story, but it’s not because Saturday night of Unofficial, I went out to a party anyways, completely ignoring that uneasy, foreboding feeling I had before. Seeing my friends go out and have fun the previous night made me feel like I was missing out on some real fun. Full disclosure, that night did not go well for me – while we were in line for the party, a drunk guy came out yelling the N word, which as a Black person was extremely unsettling, and the people hosting the party stopped letting people into the apartment, so we ended up leaving. That was also the night I learned that alcohol makes my mental health go off the rails, and I realized that I definitely should not go out anymore. Some of the bad consequences of engaging in party culture really punched me in the face.
Temptation is hard to deal with, and for me, it’s extremely difficult not to succumb to it, especially because I’m just now starting to realize my faith like I haven’t before in my life. The people I spend most of my time with on campus aren’t Christians or aren’t that religious, which I don’t necessarily perceive as being bad, but it certainly makes it harder to be led by the Spirit and not the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:17 shows that the Spirit and the flesh oppose each other).
Now I’ve come out on the other side of Unofficial standing on a couple of lessons that have helped me to overcome the temptations I’ve had (and will continue that have) since that weekend. First Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” It is comforting to know that God allows temptations that are not beyond my control and that I can absolutely handle. The cherry on top is knowing that God has my back.
Even more intrinsically, this experience has taught me how to listen more to my spirit. After that particular home meeting, I started to have feelings about my decisions that were deeper than my emotions. Throughout my life going to church, I always heard of people being able to communicate with and listen to God, but I never really understood what that meant outside of obeying what the Bible has to say. Learning to listen more to the Spirit within me has provided more opportunities for me to connect with God personally because I’m listening to how He feels about things as I journey through life.
It’s a little strange to finally write about being pulled into the party scene at school, especially because it’s not something I would bring up to my friends in Christians on Campus. However, I decided to open about my experience with the party scene at U of I because taboo topics such as this are real things that Christians experience and struggle with. Sharing about them can help and encourage others who are dealing with similar predicaments.
Part of life is making decisions and experiencing the consequences of those decisions. These are the experiences through which we can really build our relationship with God as we connect to him through our spirit with His Spirit. God is faithful and the Spirit is willing (1 Cor. 1:9; Matt. 26:41). We just have to choose to listen to our spirit, be prayerful, and have faith that God has us in his hands.
About the authorAlexis Baldwin is a freshman at UIUC majoring in English and Latin American Studies. She is from the south side of Chicago.