Surprised by Oxford: A Memoir by Carolyn Weber
We are all familiar with the sad and tired tale of a child’s faith being chewed to pieces by the wolves of academia, which is why Carolyn Weber’s discovery of faith between the ancient pillars of Oxford is a delightfully refreshing story. This memoir journeys the reader through one school year as a new graduate student investigates meaning, identity, and the claims of Christ. Not only does Weber invite you to eaves drop on the conversations found around tables with dignities and pub companions, she pulls back the curtain allowing you to listen to the wrestling of her heart. What does the love of a heavenly Father mean to a woman whose earthly father evaded her? “Fathers especially were not to be trusted. They did not even seem relevant really. That much I had learned” (p. 33). Does faith require that the intellect be dropped at the door? Are the losses worth the gains to be found? “Books, books, books between us, I thought. Between the all the people I love most and me. Actually one great Book stands between us, dropped into our permanence, disturbing our slumber like a cock crowing at the dawn of thought” (p.187). As she draws up buckets of truth from the deep well of faith found in relationship with other believers, with the Scriptures, and God’s undeniable breath, you will fall in love with Carolyn’s honesty and with the Savior who she finds uprooting her familial pain, feminism, and intellectual doubt. It’s what any student of Romantic literature hopes to find—a deeper understanding of true love.
This book was a pleasure from cover to cover. In point of fact, her story ended with me wishing she would tell more. What an encouraging reminder that God goes looking for you, be you inside or outside the walls of where we think we will find Him. When He finds you, He will to stand up to your cynicism and scrutiny, as Carolyn’s story affirms. For anyone wrestling with faith matters—and I do hope that is all of us—this book may help you articulate deep fears, challenges, and questions. It will surely spark many answers through Carolyn’s clarity of the Gospel, her patient friends, and the obvious transformation of awakened love.
Carolyn’s thinking is sharp, her writing is beautiful and easily engaged, and her sincerity is magnetic. I laughed out loud at her wit, wiped a tear for her family, cheered on her bold outbursts, and smiled at her profound grasp of truth. I only wish she lived closer, I would love to sit and tea with her.
If you are looking for a book to encourage someone in their personal investigation of faith, you can have confidence in this book. It never preaches, but most assuredly will promote clear thinking and persuade confused hearts. If you are like me, one in need of constant reminding that God is at work in unlikely situations, this story will wave hope in your general direction. If you are looking for someone to stir up for you once again the beauty of the gospel, Carolyn will use just the right words.
“That is the bizarre thing about the good news: who knows how you will really hear it one day, but once you have hear it, I mean really heard, you can never unhear it. Once you have read, or spoken it, or thought it, even if it irritates you, even if you hate hearing it or cannot find it feasible, or try to dismiss it, you cannot unread it, or unspeak it, or unthink it.
“It is like a great big elephant in a tiny room. Its obvious presence begins to squeeze out everything, including your own little measly self. Some accept it easily, some accept it quickly, and some are struck with the mystical reality of it right away. These people have no trouble bringing the unseen into the realm of the seen. But others us fight the elephant; we push back on it, we try to ignore it, get it to leave the room, or attempt to the room ourselves. But it does not help. The trunk keeps curling around the doorknob. The hook is there. It may snooze or loom or rise and recede, but regardless of the time passed or the vanity endured, the idea keeps coming back, like a cosmic boomerang you just cannot throw away. I did not realize this was part of the grace of it all—such relentless truth” (p. 81-82).
As Carolyn so aptly reminds us, books come alive when they are shared and my copy is now available for the borrowing.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”