Surprised By Oxford: A Memoir

"A favorite former teacher of mine claimed that books become more alive not only when read, but when shared," says Carolyn Weber in the beautifully transparent memoir of her journey in finding the Lord, Surprised by Oxford: A Memoir. A sweet friend shared this book with me, and I totally agree with Weber's teacher.

The only thing better than reading a great book is having friends to talk with about the journey. Weber's first year at Oxford is a life-changing year. She walks her readers through her thought process as she wrestles with meeting people whom she respects and that believe in God.

As an 18th and 19th-century literature scholar, the metaphors she uses to express spiritual truths she encounters are both profound and poetic. I am definitely going to need to read this one again.

Surprised By Oxford: A MemoirSurprised by Oxford: A Memoir Published by Thomas Nelson on February 4, 2013
Pages: 480
Length: 12 hours and 8 minutes
Format: Audiobook, eBook, Hardcover, Paperback
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When Carolyn Weber set out to study Romantic literature at Oxford University, she didn't give much thought to God or spiritual matters—but over the course of her studies she encountered the Jesus of the Bible and her world turned upside down. Surprised by Oxford chronicles her conversion experience with wit, humor, and insight into how becoming a Christian changed her.

Carolyn Weber arrives at Oxford a feminist from a loving but broken family, suspicious of men and intellectually hostile to all things religious. As she grapples with her God-shaped void alongside the friends, classmates, and professors she meets, she tackles big questions in search of truth, love, and a life that matters.

From issues of fatherhood, feminism, doubt, doctrine, and love, Weber explores the intricacies of coming to faith with an aching honesty and insight echoing that of the poets and writers she studied. Surprised by Oxford is:

- The witty memoir of a skeptical agnostic who comes to a dynamic personal faith in God
- Rich with illustration and literary references
- Gritty, humorous, and spiritually perceptive
- An inside look at Oxford University
- Weber eloquently describes a journey many of us have embarked upon, grappling with tough questions and doubts about the meaning of faith—and ultimately finding it in the most unlikely of places.

Loving Others Through What You Love

Carolyn Weber shares how her study of Romantic literature in this historic school sparked a love story of her own—one she didn’t even know she needed. 

At her orientation, the school played the movie Chariots of Fire. This classic film follows the story of a young Olympic sprinter who becomes a missionary to China. The line strikes Weber in the movie where Eric explains when he runs, he feels “God’s pleasure.”

This piques her curiosity, and she responds, “What does it mean to feel God’s presence, let alone pleasure, in something you do?”

As she wrestles with this idea, she wonders: “I had not realized that in doing something I love, and at which at times I may even excel, I felt something I could only define as akin to an electric volt deep in my core. From where did this power come? …was something else encouraging me to love through what I love?”

At Christmas, another conversation reminds her of her orientation epiphany. She wonders if the special gifts we’re given are important “only insofar as how they bring us to God? Is it in how they reflect His perfect love through each of us to others?”

One of my greatest pleasures in life is championing giftings in the people around me—helping them find that thing that when they do, they feel God’s pleasure. Weber’s insight into love and gifting makes me wonder if helping others find their niche is another way to help them know God more. 

Asking good questions is sure a good place to start. 

Favorite Quotes

"Anything not done in submission to God, anything not done to the glory of God, is doomed to failure, frailty, and futility."

(Carolyn Weber, Surprised by Oxford)

"To that point I had not realized that in doing something I love, and at which at times I may even excel, I felt something I could only define as akin to an electric volt deep in my core. From where did this power come? Was it the presence-extension or workings or shadow-of something else in me? Or was it something else encouraging me to love through what I love?"

(Carolyn Weber, Surprised by Oxford)

""There is nothing more powerful, more radical, more transformational than love. No other source or substance or force. And do not be deceived, for it is all of these things, and then some! Often folks like to dismiss it as a mere emotion, but it is far more than that. It can't be circumscribed by our desires or dictated by the whim of our moods. Not the Great Love of the Universe, as I like to call it. Not the Love that set everything in motion, keeps it in motion, which moves through all things and yet bulldozes nothing, not even our will. Try it. Just try it and you'll see. If you love that Great Love first, because It loved you first, and then love yourself as you have been loved, and then love others from that love without that kind of faith-that's death. Therein lies the great metaphor, Miss Drake." He nodded toward me. "Life without faith is death. For life, as it was intended to be, is love. Start loving and you'll really start living. There is no other force in the universe comparable to that.""

(Carolyn Weber, Surprised by Oxford)

Other Books by Carolyn Weber

In Sex and the City of God Weber welcomes readers into her journey of navigating the world of dating as a Christian woman.

Holy is the Day: Living in the Gift of the Present is a collection of spiritual reflections that trace the way God's ever-renewing grace is a gift of the present. 

Home Going: Poetry for a Season is Weber's first published collection of poems on place, nature, and journey.


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