I’ve always hated hot, spicy foods. A burning mouth is a reminder of being a little girl with hot chilli rubbed all over her thumb to stop her sucking it. (It didn’t work, by the way, just in case you’re thinking of trying it.)

Recently though, I began to realise how much this and many other little idiosyncrasies I have, have been allowed to dictate my identity. Rick and I were talking about this recently. He eats very quickly and always finishes way before everyone else, when we’re at dinner. Mostly, when others comment on our eating habits, I’ve said ‘Oh, I never eat spicy food.’ And he’ll say ‘I always eat really quickly and finish before everyone else.’

Over recent years I’ve been travelling much more and I know that it’s good manners, especially when in a foreign country, to eat what is put in front of you. This is tough when it’s very, very spicy but I made a decision a couple of years ago that I need to stop getting my identity out of what I don’t eat, and I’ve been training myself every since, to eat hot foods.

Sounds funny, doesn’t it, but how many of us define ourselves by what we ALWAYS do, or NEVER do? I’ve heard people tell me all sorts of things they NEVER do, like parking in a multi storey car park, because they’re scared of the turning circle! Or NEVER driving a certain brand of car. Or NEVER inviting people to your home because it’s not big/tidy/good enough. Or NEVER travelling by train. Or NEVER eating Vegemite.

Other people ALWAYS need a long period of warning before being asked to do something new. Or ALWAYS turn up late/early for an appointment. Or ALWAYS back down when challenged. Or ALWAYS get aggressive when faced with injustice. Or ALWAYS eat Marmite.

Some of the things we ALWAYS or NEVER do are harmless but some of them have a potent effect, damaging our lives. The older I get, the more things I realise have become habitual to me for no real reason other than that I have ALWAYS done them, and I’m becoming more determined that I no longer want to be identified by what I NEVER do or what I ALWAYS do. I want to surprise myself and other people by showing that I’m not bound by what I used to be like.

I can do something different. And maybe, by doing something different, I can be somebody different. Fear of change is one of the greatest limiters of our lives, dictating who we are just because we’re afraid to be anything else. A good question to ask yourself is this one:

What are you more afraid of? Changing? Or not changing?

The search for identity is a very real issue but in the end, we can only know WHO we are when we find out WHOSE we are. The God whose brilliant idea we are, loves us. He created us because He wanted one just like you… just like me. When we let old fears and prejudices determine our actions – or lack of actions – we warp and stunt the fullness of what we were called to be. When we let Him help us change, we can reach the full potential of the plan He always had for us.

What about it? Open your heart and mind to changing some of those old habit patterns which are so entrenched you don’t even know they’re there. Next time you catch yourself telling someone with a measure of pride that you NEVER or you ALWAYS do something, think about whether it’s time to change.

You never know what amazing opportunities and adventures might be waiting around the corner, if you just make the decision to stop living in ALWAYS and NEVER land.