A gap year or years is now commonly taken by students in college or just after matriculation. Ostensibly, it is a time that prospective applicants to a professional school will use to enhance their applications. When I applied to medical school nearly forty years ago, taking a gap year was a rarity. In fact, if a reviewer of applications saw a gap year on an application, it would raise a red flag. The majority of applicants who took a gap year did so because their applications were not strong enough to gain admission straight from college. Presently, it is the norm to take at least one gap year.
How many years are enough? Most of my residents I have interviewed have taken 2-3 years and the majority have accomplished substantive projects that certainly elevated the status of their applications. What if someone took 5 gap years? What about 10 years? Clearly if an individual took this many gap years, the expectations would be very high that they were accomplishing something great, like winning a Nobel prize or competing in the Olympics. The Bible chronicles the actions of one saint who took 17 years, preparing for his very active ministry.
But when God, who from my mother’s womb set me apart and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me, so that I could preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone. I did not go up to Jerusalem to those who had become apostles before me; instead I went to Arabia and came back to Damascus. Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to get to know Cephas, and I stayed with him fifteen days
Galatians 1:15-18 (CSB)
Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also.
Galatians 2:1 (CSB)
The Apostle Paul was one of the greatest missionaries of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the known world. For most of his young adult life, he persecuted and imprisoned many Christians, whom he and many Jews considered heretics and blasphemers. In one of the more dramatic encounters in the Bible, the resurrected Jesus Christ appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus and revealed the Truth, that He was indeed the Messiah and Son of God, just as He said He was. Paul was one of the most learned Jews in the ancient world, a rabbi schooled by Gamaliel, another respected and revered rabbi. He understood the Scriptures and all of the writings that prophesied Jesus Christ as Messiah. On the surface, it seemed that Paul would be more than ready to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ. Yet, he first spent 3 years in Arabia, learning from other disciples of Jesus Christ. If that was not enough, he spent another 14 years in preparation for his three missionary journeys that covered a period of about 10 years. During these last 10 years, he preached to countless people and wrote his seven letters to various churches, which are now preserved as a vital portion of the New Testament.
Seventeen years in preparation for a 10 year ministry. Those were very productive gap years!
For the many people who are currently undertaking their gap years, be encouraged by the Apostle Paul’s example. God may not be calling you to 17 gap years but trust Him and His sovereign will that He is preparing you for a great ministry. The Apostle Paul did not focus upon the length of time but the quality of time that was spent learning from His Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.