Does the Bible Teach Us How to Pray?
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Does the Bible Teach Us How to Pray?

As Parents, We're Called to Catch and Release

Posted January 29, 2024
Parenting

Growing up on the Jersey Shore, my dad took many deep-sea fishing trips with his friends. When they returned, my mother, sisters, and I would often greet them at the docks to spy the catch. We were equally enamored and disgusted when Dad caught a shark, but I was always confused when he would tell us tales of catch and release.

It seemed silly to me that one would go to all the work of catching a massive swordfish or yellowfin tuna only to snap a picture, measure it, and release it. Sharks were exciting; catch and release seemed stupid.

While I am still no fisherwoman, I have found myself borrowing the concept of catch and release in my parenting and calling to minister the gospel to those around me. I find that these are emotionally vulnerable and sometimes volatile waters in which to swim. Dealing with sentient souls requires the learned skill of emotional differentiation, which is hard for those of us who easily slip into the role of helpers.

When I catch and hold things that are not meant to be mine, I end up with a deck-full of flopping fish which wreak havoc in my heart and mind. Learning the skill of catch, care, and release frees me to engage with the strong emotions and felt needs of others without getting bogged down under emotional weight that isn’t mine to carry. Not everything that comes to my line is meant to be kept. Rather, I am invited by God to acknowledge, validate, and care for the emotional needs of others without carrying them.

Catch, Care, & Release

When my teenage son comes to me with a soul caught in an emotional squall about grades, sports performance, or the acceptance of friends, I have a choice: I can either catch it, drag it onto the boat, and try to carry it or I can catch it, care for him, and release it back to the sea of God’s sovereign care.

When a church member is walking through emotional pain, I have a similar choice to make. I can catch it and carry it as if were my own (until I am crushed by the compounding weight of our congregational cares). Or I can catch it and seek to care for him or her to the best of my ability before releasing that member back to Christ, who cares perfectly.

When I swap out care with carry, things get messy, and I grow weary. I also rob them and myself of the opportunity to trust in God’s sufficiency. I find it interesting to note that the apostle Peter’s often-quoted line, “Cast your cares upon him because he cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:7) occurs in the context of the shepherding of souls. There is only one who can fully carry the burdens of the flock, and it is not me (John 10:1–18). His shoulders are broad when mine are measly (Isa. 46: 3–4). His heart is spacious when mine is cramped. His capacity is inexhaustible while mine is limited (Isa. 40:28–31; Ps. 121).

May your decks be clean and may you only carry that which God has called you to carry today. May you care well for whatever and whomever God brings to your line, but may you entrust back to him his own.

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Aimee Joseph

Aimee Joseph has spent many years directing women’s discipleship and ministry at Redeemer Presbyterian Church and in Campus Outreach San Diego. She is the wife to G’Joe who has recently planted Center City Church, and mother to three growing boys. Her first book, Demystifying Decision Making released with Crossway in January 2022. You can read more of her writing at aimeejoseph.blog.