Embracing the Pace of Advent: Companioning Others with a Listening Heart

Dec 18 / Tracy Busse

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Companioning others is about listening, and listening is about waiting. Wonder keeps us engaged as we hold space for others, while love for all humans allows us to listen with our hearts. During the Advent season, we anticipate the coming of Jesus. Can you recall being a child waiting for Christmas morning? Lurking around the tree to see if any new packages with your name arrived. Wondering what magical things might happen in the midst of twinkling lights, warm candles, and sweet spices brewing in the air. Imagining a feast full of things you ate once a year while Nat King Cole sang about roasting chestnuts. Joyful play shared with siblings, cousins, and friends while the adults did their thing. In many ways, the anticipation was just as exciting as the arrival of the day.

When I sit in Spiritual Direction with others, I prepare to wait in wonder and anticipation. There is no doubt that God will come, but unlike Christmas, the date is unknown to me. The temptation to rush individual’s encounters with God abound. Like the kid who took a peek at her hidden unwrapped presents and lost the excitement of the new toy (sorry mom), I steal the graces of the mystical moment when God encounters the beloved I walk alongside. Pushing others toward the Divine without their consent causes more harm than good. As Ignatius of Loyola said, “Let the Creator deal with the creature.” ¹

Most, if not all of us, have experienced harm by others and harm through difficult circumstances. Painful events become more painful when the individuals around us do not know how to steward that space. The harm increases when they are a person with some degree of power. Pastors, therapists, spiritual directors, chaplains, missionaries, and others in helping professions cause significant pain when they fail to listen. Sacred silence gives space for grief and trauma to unfold in step with the Spirit. Together, we dwell and breathe, unified with the Trinity.

Wonder and curiosity help me to maintain a listening presence. I get curious about how my spirit responds to what the individual is sharing. On the edge of my seat, I rub shoulders with Jesus as we observe with all our senses. Sometimes, the Divine breathes words into me that I hold with care until the individual I am listening to arrives at that place. It is like God is giving me clues about what God is up to in this person’s life, and I get to wait in wonder to see what that really looks like. And when we all arrive together, we soak in the light of God’s goodness and love.

Sometimes, listening and waiting happens over many months and years before the individuals we accompany encounter the living God. Insights about God have primarily been head knowledge, and what they have been taught to believe. The journey we join as sacred companions does not offer a detailed itinerary. There will be many twists and turns filled with heartache, tears, and confusion. On this pilgrimage, we listen with wonder, remembering to slow down so we can point to the gifts along the way. We sit with our hearts attuned to the ache of the other, and we hold their stories with reverence. It is not my job to offer advice or direct our time. I listen, and I wait in wonder.

In this Advent season, I am joining with the Trinity in sacred spaces of stillness and silence. The warm glow of the tree, the smell of gingerbread wafting through the air, and the sounds of birds resonate among the tip-tapping of raindrops. My soul needs slow spaces this time of year, so I resist the pace of the “Holiday Season,” and I welcome the slow and steady rhythm of Advent. Grounded by the cadence of the liturgical calendar, my heart prepares to listen, to wait, and to wonder. Nurturing my soul is a key ingredient to holding space with others as we wait for the birth or revelation of something new. Heart-filled attending produces gifts for the one we companion and for ourselves. How might God be inviting you to nurture a listening presence for yourself and others in this Advent season?

¹ David L. Fleming, S.J., Draw Me Into Your Friendship: The Spiritual Exercises A Literal Translation and a Contemporary Reading (Chestnut Hill, MA: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1994),
Tracy Busse
Tracy Busse’s life and work have fueled an ongoing desire to move in harmony with the Trinity and to create spaces where all can encounter intimacy with God. Tracy is a writer, teacher, counselor, and spiritual director. For over eighteen years, she has provided therapy to children and adult survivors of trauma and human trafficking. She also provides consultation and training to a variety of organizations who serve leaders and marginalized populations. Continued growth in Kingdom life and integrating God’s love and presence into her work are the heart of her practice. In addition, Tracy is currently working on a doctorate in Spiritual Direction at Fuller Theological Seminary, which offered the opportunity to enjoy a 30-day Ignatian Retreat.

The fruit of this experience continues to grow and reveal greater depths of God’s love and abundant grace. With the belief that God is in all things, Tracy finds delight on her paddle board, hiking, playing the guitar, painting, traveling, and resting in the company of fellow image bearers.