All through high school I thought I had the four years after graduation figured out. I knew I was generally expected to dive right in to college and I was determined to follow through. I knew what I wanted to study and knew the general location of where I wanted that to be. I knew I wanted to attend school loan-free and complete it debt-free. I knew I would be paying for my own education and that I would graduate at a younger age than the average student. I knew there would be challenges, but I was confident to face them. I was familiar with the idea of a gap year and at moments would entertain the possibility, but for the most part, I decided against it. I knew a year out of school would mess everything up. Yep…I had it all figured out.
Senior year brought a flurry of activity, and with it came that multitude of college applications, essays, forms, visits, and scholarship and financial aid paperwork (as well as the vast overabundance of mail and phone calls.) It also brought a growing level of uncertainty. After every meeting with an admissions counselor and every conversation with a prof, I would picture myself in that particular academic setting and point out all the things I admired and appreciated – yet my heart would be uneasy. I wasn’t nervous. Neither was I excited. Deep down, I knew that I wasn’t supposed to be there. Not “there” as in a specific school…”there” as in college itself. And I really did not want to accept that realization at all.
I had everything figured out, remember? It was all lined up. I wanted the challenge, the adventure. I wanted to share post high school experiences with my friends. I thought I wanted to live up to the cultural expectation of “college after high school because that’s just what you do.” It all made sense. Still, I had no peace. I was pursuing my plans instead of pursuing God’s will. That, my friends, is a dangerous place to be. In the words of Corrie ten Boom, “There are no ifs in God’s world, and no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety. Let us pray that we may always know it!” So gently, firmly, and with oh-so-much love in His voice, God began to impress these words upon my heart:
“Stop. Stop the pursuit. Stop forging forward. Rest in me. I have so much more I want to share with you. So many ways to reveal myself to you. I want your full attention. I want you to know me closely, personally, intimately. Stop.”
Every protest and excuse and struggle that I spewed forward fell flat (of course) and the deposit day came and went without a place for the next semester reserved in my name. My files were put aside for potential future reference. My years of careful planning were completely gone within a couple of months. I was left with two things: absolutely no idea what I was doing in the fall, and a whole lot of peace. When the Lord of the Universe calls you by name and desires a deeper relationship with you, cultural expectations pale significantly in comparison.
What is it that I believe? What do I stand for? How do I live it? In what ways can I serve? Most importantly, who is the reason I’m seeking answers to these questions, and how do I know Him? Really know Him? This is the ultimate purpose of my gap year. To make use of the space, take time to listen, step back and learn who my Jesus really is.
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:7-11