Why "naming" is so important to getting unstuck

Naming Our State

A common pattern which we often fall into is to not name the “state” we are in when we are stuck. Instead, we wallow in the situation which overwhelms us, but we can’t really put our finger on it.

Sometimes it is because it is elusive, subtle, and slippery so we can’t.

Other times, it is because we just don’t bother to do so.

Naming our state is actually very important to getting “unstuck.”

A verse which illustrates this comes from Mark 5:1-17. In this passage, Jesus is confronting a man who has been possessed by a demon. This man was “screaming among the tombs” and “gashing himself with stones.” The degree of torment was such that “no one was strong enough to subdue him.”

In facing this frightening and disturbing situation, Jesus does the following in order to release the man of his demons:

And He was asking him, “What is your name?” And he *said to Him, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” (Mark 5:9)

What is happening in this moment?

Jesus, who knows all, asks the demon “what is your name?” It seems like an odd interjection of politeness during a chaotic and disturbing confrontation. This possessed man is “shouting with a loud voice” back at Jesus. Yet, in this spiritual battle, Jesus asks, “What is your name?”

That question sounds like something one asks in polite conversation to get to know someone. Not something one does to expel a demon from a suffering man.

Jesus is illustrating the power of naming that which torments us.

Even Jesus, who knows all, asks the name, and in doing so, reveals the nature of what he wants to free the man of.

In the same way, naming the state you are in and, later, the “drivers” in your life which lead you to stay stuck, is a valuable first step to experiencing breakthrough.

Naming doesn’t heal you. I wish things were that simple.

What it does do is give us clarity to confront it — meaning to face it — for what it really is. It gives us a way to bring it forward to God in conversational prayer. God is more than some meditative feeling or intuition. He is the Word.

When we pull that problem, that state of being stuck, onto God’s territory, in part, by giving it a word, not just some ephemeral sensation, we are taking a step forward.

In some ways, it will bring the problem down to size. As I share in another chapter on “Battling Giants,” the problems are often much bigger than they really are because we let the sensations, the pain, the torment fill our minds and our hearts.

When we seek to give it a name, we can begin to identify the areas in our own hearts and minds we need to let God in to defeat our challenges and experience breakthrough.

A great example is what Christ has done for us. Scripture applies a name to all the brokenness, rebellion, “messed-up” stuff in our lives that would normally make us ashamed and judged before God. Scripture refers to that collection of “stuff” as “sin.” It has been named. With Christ’s sacrifice at the cross, that sin has been paid for, and its wages defeated.

Isn’t that the ultimate example of naming to containing, and allowing God to work within us and for us to bring us all closer to Him? That he does so freely, with sovereign grace, should be something we can all give praise to God for.

So then what is the pathway to naming our state of stuck?

In this chapter, I list out some suggestions. It’s not totally exhaustive, but it should cover most of the situations that we feel.

As you go through each word, really press into understanding which one best describes how you feel. You may be tempted to just say, “all of them.” Resist that and, instead, try to get clarity on what is really happening in your life.

The pitfall in this exercise is to either name all of them, or to name none of them. This exercise is not easy. It is much easier to wallow in the pain than to take the time to name it. Naming it means really getting at the source and understanding what is happening.

This exercise tries to put some firm “fences” around the problem. This puts some definition, it makes us evaluate the degree of the “state of “stuck,” and makes what could be amorphous and scary seem a little bit better understood.

The deeper power from this exercise, of course, comes later. But in the moment of this exercise, there are two sources.

The first is to experience grace: your situation is not punishment from God for not doing something right. Now, it could be the result of not following God and his loving wisdom. But it is not punishment. This is a subtle, but important distinction.

The second source of power is pray for clarity to assign your situation with a name. The funny thing is, until now, you may not have even thought of giving it a name.

But now that you are, let God’s immeasurable power and wisdom bring it forth. You may be amazed at what happens once you do it. You may experience resistance. Your mind may be more comfortable with not being able to name it. That is where we need to call upon Jesus’ power.

The third experience of God’s power may be an emotional release as you dig into what your state of stuck really is. It could touch upon something deeper, something more raw, that lies at the root.

What do you think of what I shared above?

Did it make sense?

Did it help move you towards really putting a name on your feeling of being "stuck"?

I hope so.