The idea of a gap year has become more popular in the last decade—and for good reason—as most high school students lack clarity about their future. While the application of a gap year has grown in popularity over the last number of years, it is certainly not a new concept.
The Bible is filled from beginning to end with the command to stop, pause, and rest. God’s idea of rest has less to do with the quality of the couch we’re sitting on than it does with cultivating our hearts, which is what affects our lifestyle. This is far from what most of us think of with the idea of rest. The purpose of rest as God commanded it is to pause the rigor of the normal routines of life in order to create space—mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. He directs us to play, sleep, think, dream, pray, ask questions, serve, worship, fellowship, and, most importantly, remember and reflect.
In our natural rhythm of life, we are not that great at remembering who God is and what He’s called us to, at reflecting on our life and decisions, or at talking to Him about our future in Him. This is why He commanded the Sabbath, a weekly reminder that our lives are bigger than who we are or what we do. The true power and purpose of the Sabbath doesn’t lie in that one day of rest, but in how the Sabbath affects the other six days of the week. God isn’t just after one day of our week; He wants every day of our week.
“In the daily business of school and work, it was so easy to think, “I’ll just spend time with God tomorrow,” as I chose to watch TV or play video games. By taking a season to spend time with God every day, in prayer and in the Bible, I realized that He is so much better than the things I had been doing instead. As I move forward in life, my priorities are no longer just about satisfying my own desires, but instead growing in love for God and trusting in the plan He has for me.” —Kaeden, 2021
In a similar way, the true purpose and power of a gap year is not in the season itself—as fun and impactful as that may seem—but in how that season will affect the rest of your life. If one day out of a week can empower us to live the other six days differently, imagine what a concentrated three to nine-month season can do for the rest of your life. In other words, the power of a gap year is how it will change who you are and how you do what you do for the rest of your life.
Eleven years ago, I chose to do a gap year before going to architecture school, and that year quite literally changed my life. Since then, I have watched thousands of young people do the same, all with their own stories of radical transformation.
Most young people grow up with a longing to make a deep impact in the world. And here’s the thing: God has unbelievable plans for your life and this generation. However, many young people end up fumbling their way through high school, reluctantly choosing a college and a career, and living the rest of their lives with very little conviction or sense of purpose in anything they do. This doesn’t have to be your story.
“I had so many goals in life. But during OTI all of them became rubbish compared to the one goal of Psalm 27:4; this is directing my life from now on. Being exposed to His presence in the prayer room helped me to ask more questions to God and to believe more in His answers in the Bible. I didn’t know I had so many fears and doubts about His love in my life, but in the stillness, I started to be met by love; He marked my heart forever. Now I’m in college, and the memories I have of Jesus’ faithfulness during OTI are helping me so much.” —Daniela, 2021
Imagine giving six months of your life to learn to commune with Jesus, to get confidence in His Word, and to encounter His affections for you. Picture a season to develop deep, godly friendships; gain a sense of clarity about who God is; and grow in your understanding of what He is doing on the earth in this generation. Think of entering college with a sense of purpose, choosing your vocation with a sense of clarity, and living the rest of your life with a sense of conviction about who you are and why your life matters. This can be your story.
“The decision to take this time to go hard after the Lord was the best decision I have ever made—apart from receiving Jesus into my life! Nothing would’ve prepared me better for what was to come afterwards: work-life, marriage, ministry etc. It changed my paradigm of life and saved me from a self-reliant life with no vibrant relationship with God.” —Julien, 2020