The month of April is an important time for every Polytechnic graduate.
It marks the end of three years of endless deadlines and project meetings. Standing at the finish line, one question weighs upon everyone’s heart: “Should I continue studying or start working?”
I found myself in this exact situation six years ago. In the last two months of Year 3, everyone was busy planning out the next step ahead. The question being asked continuously was: “What’s next? Are you going to university?”
Most of my classmates decided to continue their studies (some had even received scholarships), while a handful of them were getting jobs.
But I found myself in limbo. I didn’t want to jump into another few years of poring over books, and I also couldn’t see myself taking up a full-time job — I felt that the Lord was leading me to take a gap year.
“Why take a break? Why waste time?” It was unanimous among the adults in my life that this was a bad decision. Moreover, when I shared my thoughts with my peers about taking a gap year, many stared at me in amazement while some were critical of my seeming aimlessness.
Honestly, I wasn’t even personally convinced that taking a gap year would be the wisest decision. I didn’t know anyone else around me who had done the same, and it seemed rash.
What am I to do in this one year? Would I fall behind my peers? Is this really from God? My heart was filled with more questions than answers.
On 21 February 2012, I made my usual way to Singapore Polytechnic.
During my daily commute from Pasir Ris to Dover, it was a habit for me to tune into God’s voice. As I closed my eyes and started speaking to God, I felt Him speaking straight to my heart: “Amanda, you are on a faith-filled adventure, for to live is Christ and to die is gain. Would you choose to live for Me?”
As a series of visions and verses flashed across my mind, I found my heart burning with fresh devotion to God. The conviction was so strong that I bought a ring and had it engraved with an inscription: “To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain. 210212.”
I’ve been wearing that ring as a daily reminder ever since. It sealed my decision to take a year’s break from the pursuit of earthly things and to seek first the Kingdom of God. I wanted to learn and understand what it meant to live in close partnership with the Holy Spirit.
I let go of my personal dreams and ambitions, and abided in God.
I didn’t just want my parents to approve this radical decision to “pause life” — I also wanted their support and encouragement.
To my surprise, my prayers were answered. Despite the huge question mark that hung over my future, my parents blessed me and journeyed with me through the most transformative season of my life.
So having begun my gap year, a door opened for me to work as a Teacher’s Aide in a Normal Technical Secondary 2 class. Through this experience, the students began to confide in me as their mentor and friend.
I recently met one of my students at Changi Village. I was getting a drink when a young man called me from behind, “Miss Teo! You remember me? It took me by surprise because I did not immediately recognise who he was, but learning of his progress in life and latest academic pursuits brought great joy to my heart. It reminded me of how precious every child is to God.
I had become filled with compassion for the broken and ostracised, having tasted the tenderness of God’s heart for His Children.
After mentoring these students for a few months, the Lord led me to join an overseas missions school with Youth With A Mission (YWAM), where I spent two months in Cusco, Peru.
In the seven months I spent away from home, everything in my life was emptied and laid before the Lord. From my deepest and darkest parts, to my questioning of the faith, God began to surface and deal with every sin and brokenness within me.
Even though I had been a Christian and leader in Church since I was 12 years old, it was in YWAM when I first encountered the reality and power of Jesus’ love and sacrifice on the cross. It was where I fell into first love with Him and had my entire life changed. Attending missions school was the most pivotal season in my gap year — perhaps my entire life!
I came back to Singapore with a renewed vision of Christianity, and decided to work in Church for six months. Then I began an internship at a luxury hotel for three months, before landing a full-time job as a Marketing Executive while studying for a part-time degree course.
I felt Him speaking straight to my heart: “Amanda, you are on a faith-filled adventure, for to live is Christ and to die is gain. Would you choose to live for Me?”
The most important thing I learnt in the gap year is this: God knows best and this life is not my own. I didn’t understand why He would lead me on this detour, and I had no intentions on going to missions school, but what seemed to be simple steps of obedience turned out to be such a transformative experience.
In this time I spent away from school and full-time work, I learnt I don’t own my life. Whether it’s career or marriage — I no longer live for myself. I understand better the importance of obeying God and seeking His heart. I am finally on a faith-filled adventure with God — trusting that He knows best.
If you’re at a similar life transition today, I urge you to avoid going through the motions, and be intentional with your decisions. Take time to pause and pray. Inquire of the Lord just as David did, allow His peace, wisdom, and Word to guide your every step.
Be willing to consider that a detour might be in God’s plan for you. Wherever He’s leading you, follow bravely — whether it’s a gap year, a course that is outside of your comfort zone, or a step of faith into the working world.
God knows best — He’ll never leave nor forsake you.
This article was first published on Selah.sg, and is republished with permission.