I must admit that when I first decided to take a gap year, I might have started off on the wrong foot.
You see, I was giving different reasons to different people—depending on who asked. To the friendly taxi driver, I was taking a year off school to work. To my parents, I was not ready to enter university since I had no idea what I wanted to study. To Christian friends and mentors, I needed the time to get back on track with God and to serve Him in Christian organizations.
That got me thinking. Why didn’t I have a confident and consistent answer? Was it because I didn’t have a concrete answer? If I were to be honest with myself, what reasons would I have come up with?
I graduated from a local polytechnic with a media-related diploma two months ago. I should have headed for further studies right after that, but months earlier, halfway through my last semester, the thought of taking a gap year had crept into my mind.
In case you didn’t know, a gap year is an intentional choice by a student to take a year off school to work, volunteer, or travel. It is mostly done before or after one enrolls in university. A couple of my friends were taking this long break. One wanted to spend her time backpacking round Europe, and another had planned to go to Thailand with a non-profit organization to help in animal conservation efforts. Others were looking at taking up internships to help them decide on what to study in university.
My friends all seemed to have legitimate—even noble—reasons for wanting to take a gap year. My motivations seemed to pale in comparison; I felt like I was the only confused one.
In the two months that have passed since I started my sabbatical, I have come to realize that my motivations were rather selfish. I had wanted to take a break after three years of studying in the polytechnic. The late nights and tight deadlines had left me with little time to relax and I was utterly exhausted. The idea of having more time to myself for such a long period sounded fantastic. Also, I had finished a six-month internship with a local newspaper and found that I preferred working to studying.
Reasoning with myself and my parents, I argued that I didn’t know what I wanted to study in university—hence I needed the time to “find myself” and figure it out.
However, I was aware that taking a gap year would mean a very long break from school. My sabbatical would in fact last 1½ years, because my academic year ended in February this year and God-willing, my university course would only begin in August next year. To make sure I used my time more wisely, I was determined to learn a new instrument—the ukulele.
All these reasons were not necessarily wrong, but did they truly glorify God? Where was God in my decision-making process? I had prayed to ask God what He thought about my gap year, but I had not actively sought His reply. When I lay on my bed to pray every night, was I asking God to bless my plans or was I asking God for His plan?
Such thoughts lingered in my head when a sister-in-Christ challenged me to rethink my motivations for taking the sabbatical. She suggested that as Christians, our motivations, thoughts and actions should be very different from that of a non-believer.
I reflected on how I spoke with God every night and realized that often, I wanted blessings and not direction from God. It was the wrong way to pray. The deliberate act of choosing to be stuck in limbo was probably due to selfish reasons on my part. They reflected my personal inward desires instead of God Himself. However, I believe God can still use this time to teach me many things—if I am willing to listen.
Reading a recent devotional on Romans, I was very inspired by how Paul allowed the Gospel to shape his whole person. His identity, mission, relationships with others, and convictions were so aligned to the Gospel. It challenged me to think about how I should let God use me, and how much more I need to surrender my life to Him.
So far, in the past two months, I’ve spent my time serving with Singapore Youth for Christ to gear up for an evangelistic event in June. My interest in writing has also led me to join YMI as an editorial intern. However, even though I’m doing “Christian” things, I know it is still important for me to pray constantly for God’s guidance.
I still don’t have the answers to many of the difficult questions I’ve asked. However, I pray that I will continue to seek God first, to ask for His direction instead of His approval. May I learn how to discern what my personal desires are, and what God has called me to do. With 16 more months’ sabbatical to go, I hope to make decisions that will make God happy instead of those that will make me happy.
I can only plan so much for my gap year. But I am convinced that if I let God plan for me, He will give me far more than I can ever ask or imagine.