This post isn’t one just about Tarot or cards. This one is pretty personal. It is, however, related to the cards I pulled today, which I’ll explain more later on.

Life is a wild adventure. As a child you are taught all kinds of things about planning, preparing, and making careful decisions. While that’s great and all, the reality is that this isn’t how life works. It doesn’t matter how much you plan or prepare, life will throw you unexpected curve balls that you can’t avoid and had no way to prepare for. Life, as I’ve heard said, is what happens while you are busy making plans. I’ve found that statement is pretty true, to be honest.

Next month I will be thirty-four. In my thirty-four years of life I have had some truly insane experiences that I certainly could never have prepared for and in no way could have avoided no matter how well I planned. I would venture to say that I’ve been through more in my years than many people will deal with in an entire lifetime. Maybe because of these experiences I always tried really hard to fit in and be liked by other people. For years that was my number one goal. I was basically a chameleon that changed shape to blend in wherever I was. In church settings I was the good religious boy who said and did all the right things. In the more rebellious crowd I was the same as them, using the same language and disdaining the things I loved in other crowds. The one thing I wasn’t was me. Why, you might ask? Honestly, I don’t know if I even knew who I was at that point in my life. I had so many conflicting messages about who I should be and spent so much of my time listening to those messages and trying to contort myself into those shapes that I never really took the time to figure out who I actually was.

There are three things that have always been an absolute constant in my life: the fact that I was clearly gay, my insatiable draw to all things spiritual and spiritual pursuits, and a calling towards ministry of some form. You see, I grew up conservative Christian. While that’s certainly not my religious or spiritual path at this point in my life, it’s an important part of my formation and really shaped me in ways that I’m only now as an adult truly understanding. These aren’t bad things, either. Certainly there has been a fair deal of difficult and hurtful religious baggage to shed from those years, but there is also a lot of love and powerful values.

Ultimately, this whole reflection was prompted by the cards that I pulled today. I went to the Thoth Tarot and these two cards basically flew out of the deck while I was shuffling. I took that as a sign that this was the message for me and for those who read my writings today:

Thoth 4 of Swords and 9 of Cups

You see, these two cards very much sum up where I am in life right now. The Four of Swords from the Thoth Tarot is labeled Truce, but it always makes me think of lying things down, the swords are resting and all pointed together. They have been put to rest and are no longer being used to constantly defend and attack and work. You see, in the process of constantly trying to look and appear and feel right with the different crowds I was constantly in a state of vigilance and ready to defend or attack as necessary. I had to defend my image and myself at all times. I couldn’t let my different worlds collide, either, for fear of everything in my carefully stacked house of cards falling apart.

Several years ago, when I cam out as gay, I began the process of putting the swords to rest and coming to a state of true authenticity. It’s taken quite some time to come to a completion of this process, but I’m finally at a place of the most authenticity I’ve ever been in. You see, authenticity is when you are the person you are no matter where you are and no matter who can see. It’s when you truly own YOU and it is completely unimportant whether others approve or understand. The last several years have been a process of not only lying down the swords and coming to an authentic center, they have also been a process of finding all of the swords I was carrying and all of the masks I was wearing. After years and years of picking up swords and putting on masks it’s easy to lose track of just how many you have and it’s easy to lose sight of where you are underneath and behind it all.

The second card is the Nine of Cups, labelled in the Thoth as Happiness. In this card each cup is overflowing with light and energy. It’s a card of happiness and contentment, but more than that it is a card of abundance. In this image there is so much authentic energy and light contained in each cup that it is literally spilling over, not only to the other cups, but to the spaces around the the cups. This is what happens when someone comes into a place of true authenticity. Not that everything is sunshine and roses, but there is a confidence and a light that shines that others see and that affects the world around them. This light isn’t always to everyone’s liking, but that’s okay. Those for whom this light is either too bright, not the right shade, or even just offensive will disassociate from it. Those for whom it is meant will be drawn to it and will add their light to yours and vice versa. It’s mutually beneficial for everyone around.

At this point in my life I’m dealing with incredibly debilitating chronic pain and illness, but that’s actually even served to help me find my authentic center! After going through all sorts of trials and running from a calling to ministry and trying to force that calling into other shapes than the one I’ve always known it was I’ve finally accepted where I believe I’m meant to be: I’ve always felt called to the ministry of Chaplaincy. However, I’ve learned at this point in my life that a Chaplain is not necessarily a Christian ministry. It’s a ministry performed by those of all faiths and even those of no faith. You see, it’s a spiritual support role, not necessarily a religious role. Certainly there are religious roles that some chaplains are expected to perform, but it’s not the only thing.

A few years back I was in seminary and seeking ordination in a Christian tradition. At this point I’ve entirely removed myself from the Christian church. Unfortunately, during what should have been a spiritually forming process I found my faith entirely destroyed by the machinations and politics of the church and the seminary. Honestly, some of the worst and most unprofessional treatment I’ve ever received in my life came from some of these areas. In addition to this, the path never was truly open because I was a gay man and Christianity still has a serious problem with this, even though many like to tout how open it’s become. Try living it. It’s not that open. Also, because this wasn’t an authentic path I could never truly move forward. However, again, this was for the good. You see, I’ve always been drawn towards eclectic spiritual practices. That’s even part of the reason for the name Eclectic Wisdom: my spiritual knowledge comes from so many different religious and spiritual paths that I have studied my whole life! At this point in my life I am an Omnist: I believe that all religions hold truth and paths to Spirit yet none of them has a monopoly on ultimate Truth.

In practice I’m what would be considered a Christo-Pagan. My faith and belief system is very much rooted in ancient Christian teachings (which bear very very little resemblance to the modern Christian religions, and yes, that’s religions with an s, because there certainly isn’t just one Christianity). In addition to that I pull from several pagan sources such as the ancient Greek mysticism, a fair amount of Native American nature spirituality, and bits of neo-pagan faith such as Wicca. It’s an interesting blend, to be sure, and I wouldn’t say that I actually follow any specific religion, but these each inform my spiritual walk and growth.

As part of this path I am applying to Cherry Hill Seminary. They are a non-profit seminary that focuses on a broad spectrum of spiritual paths. I believe that they can help me to round out my spiritual education and their degree programs are accepted by the major chaplain certification boards in the country, so a Master’s from there will also aid me in finally answering this calling. You see, I’ve been in and out of the medical system my whole life. I can empathize in those settings in ways that many cannot. I’ve also felt like that’s where I belong since I was a teenager.

I share all of this in the spirit of laying down the swords and the masks and being truly authentic. This is who I am. I am the father of three amazing children, I am husband to an amazing and caring man, I am the son of the most amazing parents anyone could ask for, I’m the brother of a passionate and intelligent woman, I’m an artist, a card reader, a blogger, an Omnist, a student of Spirit, and a future chaplain.

Life is a crazy adventure. I never thought this is where I would be, but I’m more grateful than I can say that I am.

Dear reader, I end with this: I challenge you to look at yourself. What swords are you holding? What masks are you wearing? What is obscuring your authentic self and in what areas of your life are you afraid to share this self? You may not be ready to lay down swords and take off masks and that’s okay, but being aware is the first step.

Love and light, until next time.