When I studied it later, in my home office, I felt like life was giving me a challenge I had to accept. I was trying to sort out the possibilities of life, working and dreaming to try to ensure that sans husband and children, my life would still somehow be significant. Oxford, grad school, studying theology – these were things I dreamt about as an avenue to meaning, an answer to the unexpected aloneness of my journey. I felt a need to study the historical and cultural setting of the New Testament, to find the basis for understanding the so many important things that get lost in the evangelical church today as we focus on the specific meaning of the Greek words, often with a complete lack of understanding of the culture they were written to. Perhaps this was God’s intention in keeping me single. Perhaps this was my meaning. I had always wanted to live overseas, and Oxford seemed romantic and real from an educational standpoint, real in a way my evangelical-college work wasn’t.
So when I read the brochure I was willed out the door with a determination to investigate this possible source of meaning for my life. Nothing life-changing, but a small step. And I thought I could take a week or ten days after the course in Oxford to follow Austen’s life through the English countryside.
That “week or ten days” quickly became two, and then three weeks, so that by the time I got on the British Airways flight for London in the beginning of July, I was leaving on a month-long journey – in search of adventure, love, and Jane Austen.