Wednesday, April 29, 2015


I am borrowing a term from nature and sports as an analogy for spiritual life. Catch and release” is a practice within recreational fishing intended as a technique of conservation. After capture, the fish are unhooked and returned to the water before experiencing serious exhaustion or injury.

I'm applying it to myself with another analogy I've previously written about (See my blog archive for February 22, 2015) of fish jumping into my boat. Under certain conditions and in certain areas fish actually do jump into a fishing boat—a reverse phenomenon! I’ve viewed it on a sportsman’s TV show.

“Fish,” in the most positive sense and in the sense that Jesus used, refers to people whom God brings into my life when I make myself available to Him. I offer myself each morning as a habit of my life, “Lord, today bring into my life anyone or anything in Your will and for whatever purposes You intend.” That includes anyone who touches my life in person, by snail mail, phone call, e-mail, thought, reminder to pray, literal knock on my door, through my web site, blog, and any other means that the Holy Spirit may choose to use. I boldly pray for that to happen on a daily basis.

More often than not I experience my boat—my daily life, the hours of my day—filled with “fish” who have jumped in and I welcome each one as sent by God. My boat is frequently overloaded. As in the biblical event of the fishing net being so full of fish after Jesus miraculously makes it happen for Peter, he has to call for help from his fishing partner friends in another boat. That is when I call on my prayer partners, my “Praying Eagles,” to help me.

In one sense the Lord expects us to bear our own burdens, the crosses He lovingly puts into our lives to transform us into the image of Christ. But we are also to reach outside of ourselves to “bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). We are to pray for and share the concerns of others, and if need be, act as Simon of Cyrene did in helping to carry the cross of others, in his case, the cross of Jesus. When two carry any burden it becomes lighter.

I often find myself in overload with the burdens and cares and needs and tears and griefs and anxieties of others. I willingly “catch” them when they jump into my boat because I perceive that they arrive according to God's purpose. 

But if I embraced each one permanently to myself, my heart would soon be too full. That is when the “release” action becomes necessary. If a friend asks me to pray for him or her for some crisis situation or pending decision, I must intercede right away. I am persuaded that it is not I who am able to answer that prayer, but God. I must back off and release it to Him. He answers through the mediatorship of Jesus and the action of the Holy Spirit who edits my prayer to be acceptable to the Father's will by the time it reaches Him. (Romans 8:26-28)

I must continue the “release” action to “take your burden to the Lord and leave it there...” as a classic hymn instructs us. I should not be anxious about the answers or the solutions to the situations or consent to bear them myself, thus compounding the anxieties. I must release them to God with thanksgiving and trust that He will take care of them according to His perfect will and time and in His way. I must let the burdens I am asked to share slip from my shoulders to His, and open my hands from gripping them to myself. "I relieved his shoulder from the burden; his hands were freed from [carrying] the basket” (Psalm 81:6). One translation for “basket” indicates “brick load.” If I were not to release the burdens of others to God, they would be as heavy as a load of bricks to me.

The purpose of “catch and release” in fishing is to avoid exhaustion and injury to the fish. I've also read that if dozens of fish suddenly jump into a boat it can endanger the fisher-person—flapping, flopping, large, agitated fish can actually injure him as they bombard his head and face! So it can apply spiritually to me as a fisher-person. Prayer is peaceful and gentle as an exercise in faith and trust in a God who answers prayer. It is also intense and emotionally consuming—a heart and mind spiritual exercise. I can potentially exhaust myself and suffer spiritual burnout as an intercessor, if I don't practice “catch and release.”

When I do release to God the burdens others have asked me to bear with them and for them, I have room in my boat, in my heart and prayers, for more. Jesus claimed that His yoke was easy and His burden is light. I must internalize that truth as I “catch and release” so that one day if Jesus sends me 153 of them all at once, as He did for Peter, my boat won't sink!

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