Experience is a good thing; it is that which tests a man.
Poimēn of Sketis
In the fifth century, a monk lived in the Egyptian desert. His name was Poimēn of Sketis. Poimēn was a word referring to a shepherd: who we might nowadays refer to as a pastor. This monk, Poimēn, was part of a great revival movement of early Christians living in the desert, focussing on praying, reading the Bible, and doing good works. Humble God-seekers who, out of love for God, give up everything to become perfect. Inspired by the conversation between Jesus and the rich young ruler:
Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21)
The desert monks experienced a call from God to become ‘perfect’ by selling all their possessions and going into the desert. For these monks, the desert was a huge area to work together with God to become perfect: like a training ground to prepare for a life in pursuit of God, to not be afraid to make mistakes. It’s a place to try out life in dependence on God. They practiced chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, obedience, kindness, and humility. They considered all virtues worth pursuing.
The good news is that anyone can practice the pursuit of virtues: you don't have to be a monk to do this. Ideas for new experiences can be found by looking for biblical challenges. Train yourself. Would it benefit you if, for example, you stopped judging others (Matthew 7:1)? What is the effect of praying at night (Luke 6:12)? How could you serve God by fasting (Luke 2:17)? How about treating someone the way you want to be treated (Matthew 7:12), or what about praying the Lord’s prayer every time you start to pray (Matthew 6:13)? Just give it a go, even if it's only for one day. Gain as much experience as you can. Only by this can we become strong in our spirits.
The desert father Poimēn gives us a push in the right direction. He dares us to take up the challenge, to experiment with God and for God. Try to practice new virtues and test yourself. You are not created to remain who you are, you are created to change, more and more, into God’s image and likeness. Pray and dare to explore territory you have never been in before, and hold onto the truth you find (1 Thessalonians 5:21).