In the Silence
In the sometimes painfully quiet months after graduation, Ruth Clemence is discovering a renewed focus and trust on God
One word. Silence. It is a moment in time when no words are uttered audibly. A time when we are alone with our thoughts. Silence can be eerie. It can be peaceful. It can be frustrating. It can be awkward.
We can prescribe the ‘Silent Treatment’, although there is nothing specifically said about this on any reputable medical website. There are circumstances in life when we are required or recommended to remain silent, such as during an exam, or as a mark of respect to commemorate someone or something. If you are arrested you have the right to remain silent.
But in a world that is connected like never before, by the internet, phones, televisions, transport, it is difficult to find time for silence. This idea is summarised by author Jefferson Bethke in his book Jesus > Than Religion:
“We refuse to turn off our computers, turn off our phone, log off Facebook, and just sit in silence, because in those moments we might actually have to face up to who we really are.”
I know this all too well. As a recent graduate, I remember the late nights on social media, sharing ideas for different essays with my peers whilst looking over the fence like a nosy neighbour at their ‘status updates’, gaining snippets into their online lives. If I was not on the internet, I was busy typing up research, reading books and planning my next steps after university. My life was busy most of the time.
However, University finished four months ago, I have just had my graduation ceremony and I am now painfully aware of the silence. The silence from potential employers as they fail to acknowledge that they have received my application form. The silence in the flat as my husband is out at work. During these times of quiet, I have struggled to find my place within the world of work. I have ideas and aspirations that have not yet come into fruition.
With all the silence, I am hearing one voice a lot. My own. I battle with ideas for my next steps. I wrestle with feelings of inadequacy as I look for work and feel as if my three years of hard work at university are being ignored and side-lined. I find myself battling with my emotions on a daily basis because I have gradually become more self-involved as I keep my eyes on myself and my current situation.
My identity is in Jesus Christ, not in a career
I know that I am not alone and this is not an unusual story for recent graduates and jobseekers alike. There are days that are bleaker than others. But there is a voice that I am encountering and trusting in the silence even though I doubt myself. I need to take my eyes off myself, and focus them unwaveringly on Jesus Christ.
In the silence, I come face to face with the reality that the Lord has carved out the direction for my life. My identity is in Jesus Christ, not in a career. I am to be submissive to God and his plans for my life – plans to prosper me and not to harm me, to give me hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). I am gently reminded that I am to trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding, but to acknowledge Him in all of my ways and He will be the one to make my paths straight (Proverbs 3: 5-6).
The truth that resounds from the Bible is able to break the difficult silences and replace them with a joyful quiet in which to pray and praise God. In the still and the quiet, the Lord can teach us about Himself and about ourselves. Job asks the Lord, “Teach me, and I will be quiet; show me where I have been wrong. How painful are honest words!” (Job 6: 24-25). I have had to come face to face with my sin and shame in the silence, and it has been a struggle.
I am reminded of Psalm 139:7-8 of how the Lord is with me wherever I go and whatever I do: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.”
The Lord is near, and as I write this, I am reminded that He has given me a desire to write for His glory and He has given me this time to be able to do so. if the Lord had not put me in a place of silence, I would not have let go of my busy schedule and career-obsessed tendencies in order to focus on Him. I am confident that He is the one who makes me strong and secure (2 Samuel 22:33), and that He will give me peace and guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7), whatever battles and triumphs may come.
There have been painful moments on leaving university. But graduating into the silence is teaching me the most valuable lesson of all – to trust God in every moment, even the silent ones.
Ruth Clemence is a recent graduate from Plymouth University and the writer of a blog called The Mustard Seed. Ruth first started blogging in 2011 when she was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 19, and continues to write about faith today with the aim of pointing more people to Jesus Christ.