Participants Not Observers

Participants Not Observers - Wellspring Group


In my own journey of discovering my place in God’s Larger Story, I sometimes come across readings that jolt and reorient me to my place in this Story. In Chris Webb’s The Fire of the Word: Meeting God on Holy Ground, I was brought to face afresh my favorite protective strategy of isolation. When I begin to feel pressed down and shaken by the challenges of relationships or by circumstances that are not providing me with immediate good, I default into withdrawing from those relationships and circumstances through isolating into my own private places of silence and solitude. Sometimes it is hard for me to recognize that I am retreating into myself rather than retreating into God’s presence. I often need the loving engagement of others to see the dry fruit of isolation in contrast to the rich life in Christ. 

Chris Webb’s pointed comment that “there are no disinterested observers in the universe, only engaged participants” has taken me aback as I look at how my isolation, my attempt to become a disinterested observer, is a false stance. Isolation as a protective strategy changes the story that I am participating in. I move from my natural condition of being a participant in a Story so large that I am overwhelmed by it to one I control by pulling lint off my sweater so that I when I make my next grand appearance, I will be neat and tidy.

      Webb expands the participant theme with the “Bible is a vast, intricate and magnificent spiritual universe of stories, ideas, songs, poetry, wisdom and prophecy, within which we can walk and dwell with God…We are participants in this spiritual world.”

      I am left with the Psalmist’s cry, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? or where shall 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.” God’s Larger Story is everywhere, and He is inviting my participation in that Story wherever I find myself.


Terry Mitchell is a former English professor and adventurer of sorts, whose wanderings find him in Atlanta as a Christian counselor, spiritual director, and workshop developer with Soul Care, Terry co-taught the inaugural Wellspring Retreat with Larry in November 2003 and has been actively involved with WG as a retreat speaker and small group facilitator in the Battle events for nearly nine years and has recently served as a spiritual director in the WG 5-day Silent Retreats. Terry and his wife, Dot, are enjoying the adventure together of their 38 years of marriage
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  • Alex van Rossum
    published this page in Blog 2016-05-26 12:39:59 -0500