Carolyn Weber's beautifully penned memoir of her personal faith journey is a delight to read. Her descriptions of Oxford are enough to make any Anglophile salivate. As a professor of English literature and an expert in the Romantic poets, she intersperses snippets of classic poetry throughout. Her ongoing references to the poetry of John Donne and John Milton especially captured my attention, their insights having been instrumental in my own spiritual walk. In the end, I want to dust off the Norton anthologies saved from my own college lit classes and immerse myself once more.
When the author is awarded a full scholarship to do graduate work at Oxford University's Balliol College, she hasn't an inkling of the path on which she is setting out. In the company of her colleagues and friends, and spurred on by one particular theology student who lives across the hall, she explores the deep, existential questions that have nagged her for years. For the first time in her life she reads a Bible--what she says is "the most compelling piece of creative nonfiction I had ever read. If I sat around for thousands of years, I could never come up with what it proposes, let alone with how intricately Genesis unfolds toward Revelation." Following in the footsteps of C.S. Lewis, the truth of God's Word eventually leads her first to believe in God and ultimately to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God.
Carolyn's journey unfurls as a twofold romance: even as she is being courted by the Divine Lover, she is also courted by "TDH" (Tall, Dark, & Handsome). Conversations with this particular lover of God (and with other friends, both believers and non-believers) serve as the catalyst for her search. The questions had always been there; TDH challenges her to finally seek hard after the answers. All this set against the glory that is Oxford makes the book read more like a novel--as it should, since our lives are simply stories that play out in the context of God's Story.
After traveling alongside the author through the ups and downs of an entire academic year, I was a little (only a little, mind you) disappointed at how she wrapped up loose ends in only a few pages of epilogue. But since the setting of the book is Oxford and the story has its resolution back on this side of the pond, I suppose that's as it should be. I was impressed with Weber's deep love and respect for her family back home. And I resonated at her homage to Christian professors who have so generously discipled her along the way.
In the end, I came away with two thoughts. First, each person's journey to faith in Christ is tailor-made by a loving God who knows us and desires to be known by us. Second, God does not make us travel this journey in a vacuum but fills our lives with people to keep pointing us to His truth. Thanks be to God!
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