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The coursework is finally done!

Recently, I completed the initial 45 credits for Covenant Bible Seminary’s Doctor of Ministry program and breathed a sigh of relief. With the COVID-19 crisis causing delays in mail delivery, quarantines, lack of communication via phone or email, I thought I’d never even get this far. My poor instructor was hospitalized for a time due to the virus. Even if I had not been a religious person, the miracles needed to complete the Doctor of Ministry program could convince me of such phenomena.

Trying to keep up with my three grown children who are also in college, I overextended myself. I’m not even sure if I was aware of what I was doing, but I ended up also enrolling into a Doctor of Theology program with International Christian College and Seminary and a paralegal program with Blackstone Career Institute.

If that were not enough, I was taking a class here and there with Walla Walla Community College. Just last week, I turned in the last assignment for the paralegal diploma. I only have two more courses for the Doctor of Theology program, then onto the dissertation. To be clear, I’m not bragging; my point is that I was so busy that literally a year blinked by.

Why am I killing myself with schooling?

Well, one reason is that I failed. I failed my family, my employer and my community. I was a community college psychology instructor who completely lost it one day. That’s very difficult to recover from professionally. Had I practiced what I preached, maybe the outcome would be different.

Another reason is my children. Having a father go to prison is a death sentence to children’s social life and brings untold psychological trauma. How, as a father, do I make amends? They cannot understand my trauma dealing with infidelity. I cannot understand their life after their father gets shot, arrested and imprisoned. There is no cookie-cutter template for reconciliation.

A third option is that I may be hiding behind the grades, degrees and the coursework. Like a shield held by a Roman soldier of old, I hide behind my education. Maybe with a perfect GPA, certificates of achievements, paralegal diploma and Master of Divinity degree, I can add that to the other shields I owned: military diplomas and awards, psychology and philosophy degrees, martial degrees and trophies. Do I use education like one uses a red herring, hoping (maybe praying) citizens will focus on those instead of my crime? Maybe so. Maybe so.

Ego and pride are difficult to deal with when trying to avoid loss of face. Not properly dealing with them, fueled with anger, situations can explode like a fireball. This fireball hurts oneself, the family, the community and the country. My first-degree assault with domestic violence is my Mark of Cain. It never goes away, can never be expunged. As a man of God, I often wonder what future challenges this will present for me and for my children.

When citizens commit felonies and go to prison, it is called “falling.” Falling from grace? Falling from citizenship? I don’t know. It was over nine years ago since I “fell.” When I fell, I was confused, depressed, disillusioned and dizzy from trying to anchor myself to what I know. But, if what I knew actually worked, I wouldn’t have been dizzy. My project for seminary is helping men enter college. Maybe it’s helping me somehow. My fall hurt. Symbolically, my hands and face are broken from the fall. Each day, I put one foot in front of the other; there are millions more to go.

The day I fell, I remember the doctor told me I was alive only by the grace of God. God? I didn’t know God then. On the way from the hospital to the jail for booking, the deputy remarked, “God has a plan for you!” God has a plan? What? To make me angry?

From what I’ve read of the Bible, God gives characters in his story great challenges. Apparently, some good comes from it. I’m still skeptical. I’m not a big character like the Bible, far from it. But I can now see I have a shield, and that I hide behind it. I’m not ready to drop it but I know it’s part of the cause of my fall.

Sometimes I ignore my inadequacies and pretend they are not there. Without my shield, especially as a soldier, I feel vulnerable. Will you, the reader, hold my shield? Will you also hold my fears? Thank you. If you think you can do all that, plus let go of your fears of this particular felon, I would appreciate it. I will carry your fears, your shield and promise to walk straight. Please take good care of my shield, will you?

God bless.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Corey Minatani is a writer formerly incarcerated in Washington state. He has a doctorate in ministry in theology at International Christian College and Seminary. He is also pursuing a paralegal certificate from Blackstone Career Institute. As an industrial/organizational psychologist, he evaluates prison college pedagogy, operations and grievance systems. Corey’s pieces are submitted via American Prison Writing Archive, a partner of the Prison Journalism Project.