So that time of the year comes around. You’re approaching the end of your A levels and people are asking what you are going to be doing next year? Will you go straight to Uni, will you take a gap year, or will you go straight into work? They’re probably all the same questions that you’ve had mulling over and over in your mind.
When I was at sixth form, I was pretty clear that I wanted to do a Gap Year. I always had a strong sense that experience was just as important as grades and therefore had no real desire to go straight back to studying at Uni. I had already got a deferred place at Uni and wanted to do something else for a year. After a French exchange I did in my As year and subsequently a ski holiday, I grew a real love for skiing. What better way to send the winter months than living in a snowy French ski resort skiing nearly everyday? So that was it, I’d made up my mind, I’d been offered a job working in a Chalet, and so I just went with it really.
Now, at this point I haven’t mentioned my Faith at all. This is because I barely had one at the age of 17/18. That aspect of my life didn't come into play very much when making my decisions. If you’re a Christian, you may well want to do a gap year involving something based around your Faith. This might mean going oversees to contribute to social action in poorer parts of the world. It may mean doing an internship with a Christian Charity or you may even be brave enough to work with a Church for a year. Perhaps like me, you’re just wanting to go on a jolly…
But now several years later, by God’s grace, my Faith has grown a huge amount. Ok I’m still far from perfect, but the key difference is that my Faith actually directs a lot of my decisions and more importantly, my mentality. So imagine if I had the same faith when I was 18! I could have done something more ‘productive’ with my Gap year, more Christian, something that seemingly contributed something to other people’s lives.
And there it is, hindsight, such a beautiful thing. Do I continually regret not doing something more Christian with my time off? Would I have done things differently now? The Ski season wasn’t in any way really Christian and my part-time job back in the UK wasn’t either. My answer is simply No; I don’t regret it at all. This is because Faith doesn’t work like that and nor does life.
Ephesians 2:8 has always spoken strongly to me
"for it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God."
The way my faith has changed and grown, and the way in which we all change within our own Spiritual Journey is down to God. Through his Spirit, God blesses us with faith. We do not create our own life and faith formula, which will create a certain outcome. Life is Dynamic and the way God uses us is Dynamic.
I’m really glad I had these experiences on my gap year. I had a lot fun. I learnt a lot about working with people, dealing with difficult situations and got much better at skiing. Just because life experiences don’t seem very ‘Christian’, doesn’t mean we don’t grow through them and it most certainly doesn’t take away from our ministry. In fact, I believe it’s a blessing to have those experiences. As it happens, it was on my return to the UK that I started to get involved within a small male discipleship group. Although I was still in my sceptical stage, this was a key foundation in how God really revealed himself to me. God was and still is in control.
Gap years are great. They are times to enjoy and take advantage of opportunities that you may never have again in life. As a Christian they can be great times of growth and discipleship too. But don’t put your gap year on the pedestal. Just as within every period of life, we have expectations, which are sometimes met and sometimes not. If you really feel God is calling you to something in particular then keep praying and pursue it! But don’t just try and plan the most exciting year of your life. If you don’t feel that a gap year is right for you then that’s just as fine. That doesn’t mean missing out on what God has in store for you. Life is an abundance of surprises, and the way God leads us through life is dynamic and exciting. Make the most of the experiences life throws at you; it’s incredible how at later dates we see the true fruit that has come about from it.