There were different ways of living out the spiritual life in the Egyptian desert. Some sought the eremitic life. These hermits lived in solitude and isolation in order to grow in spirit. Others committed themselves to small desert communities. In these communities, women and men encouraged and challenged one another in faithful living. Those who lived longer in the desert became mentors of newcomers. The elders, the ammas and abbas who had amassed desert wisdom, became spiritual guides to others.
Abba Anthony understood our capacity to give ourselves a break. He knew that we can ease up on our devotion and discipline and justify our reasons for doing so. Anthony was well aware of how much we fall out of good habits and forget to pick them up again. We make and break promises without compunction. We have a hard time sticking to it.
For these reasons, Anthony and others advised that we have accountability partners and mentors. We need people in our lives who we can trust with our details. We must have people to trust with our strengths and weaknesses, our successes and failures. A spiritual friend walks with their partner along the spiritual way-sharing all the growth and growing pains. A spiritual mentor inspires and urges the mentee to do what must be done in order to walk further.
Do you have a spiritual friend? Is there someone in your life who you can trust with all the strides and stumbling of your journey? Can you find a friend that will push you a bit?
Do you have an "elder", an amma or abba? Is there a spiritual guide in your life who you recount every step to? Can you find someone who has walked the way for a while, someone who can encourage you on?