When I first moved from the north to Texas my taste for Mexican food was confined to a national taco chain. Any other Tex-Mex I tried was too spicy and “wasn’t right”. I wondered why northerners had better Mexican food than was available down south.
Fast forward ten years and my visit back to Chicago over the 4th of July. When a friend suggested a visit to that taco chain I used to frequent I replied, “No way. That’s not real.” My first meal when back in Texas? Yes, some Tex-Mex from one of my favorite local restaurants. What changed in the decade I’ve lived in Texas?
What changed was what I fed myself. As I ventured to new places and friends introduced me to a better quality of food, I developed an appetite for increasingly better [real] Tex-Mex. My tender palate still can’t handle “spicy” food; but I have a better appreciation for good quality tacos, enchiladas and burritos.
As an aside, when I inquire at a new restaurant or when trying a new dish, I always ask if it’s “Hot”. I’m frequently told the item isn’t spicy – only to experience the taste of fire I can’t handle. My wife has developed a line to servers: “He thinks catsup is spicy.” I guess you can take the boy to the south; but you can’t change his wimpy tongue!
First, our appetites can change. They are shaped by what we consume. What we consume becomes what we expect. If all you’ve ever had is hamburger you may not think you like a juicy steak. Then, you get the opportunity to visit a five-star steakhouse and discover meat that melts in your mouth. You can only develop a taste for what you consume. What you consume determines your tastes.
Second, what you develop a taste for is based on what you value. If you want a healthier diet you may begin eating more vegetables. Even if you don’t like those vegetables at first, you will likely develop a taste for them after you’ve included them in your diet over a course of time. The more you eat brussel sprouts the more you’re likely to enjoy them. It’s called acquiring a taste for something.
These food analogies transfer to habits in life. As you introduce good habits into your lifestyle you may not like them at first. Exercise can make you sore. Healthy food may taste bland. Disciplined work can make you feel like a drag and kill all your fun.
The more you keep at those good lifestyle choices the more they become ingrained in your daily habits. They become second nature and, like developing a taste for Tex-Mex, they can become something you enjoy. Suddenly you can’t imagine being undisciplined at work or find a day without exercise leaves you feeling lethargic. It’s not because the item became better tasting, but because you developed a taste for the new habit.
If we figure out what we value in life – time with family, more disciplined work, better health, more joy and less complaining, we can choose to pursue the things we value. As we pursue those lifestyle choices, our tastes can change so that we begin enjoying the habits that seemed distasteful at first. Over time it’s no longer a chore to pursue good things; it becomes a new way of life.
It reminds me of the invitation in Psalm 34:8 – to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” God, like many other good things in life, is waiting for us to decide to pursue Him. As we do, we grow closer to Him. Suddenly the things we value adjust to our pursuits and our tastes follow suit.
What habit have you longed for in your life? What direction have you always wanted to go? That change may not be as far away as you think. It may just be a matter of changing the diet of your habits to fit that for which you say you want to acquire a taste.
By Jeff Denton, Senior Pastor, Waterbrook Bible Fellowship