Driving through downtown Minneapolis means seeing a lot of pedestrians. Although most people wait for the WALK sign, some dart out in front of oncoming cars. Some of these people just don’t care about the traffic lights while others are simply oblivious to them. Repeatedly I see someone start to cross the street and then look at the oncoming cars with surprise. I don’t understand why they seem surprised. If they had bothered to look at the traffic lights, it would be obvious – the red light means it’s not their turn.

Red lights are a normal part of traffic. Although frustrating when in a hurry, red lights are necessary. They help keep us safe (even those horrible ones that take an eternity to turn green).

Often, life presents us with red light situations. We are on track to do something until we hit a red light. Sometimes the red light seems to come out of nowhere and shocks us just like the pedestrians who are surprised by the cars, but is it the red light that shocks us or is it the oncoming traffic?

When a pedestrian comes to a red light, she has options. She can wait for the light to change, she can veer off in another direction or she can risk running into the oncoming cars. In life, we also have options when faced with a red light. 

We can stop and wait. We can go another direction. We can choose to run the risk of becoming road kill.

Sometimes the best answer is to wait for the light to change. Sometimes there are reasons we don’t understand about why we have to wait. Other times the wisdom of waiting becomes clear. If the destination is in sight, waiting isn’t fun, but arriving safely at the destination is worth it. We must be careful to notice whether the red light is temporary or permanent. In life, some red lights won’t ever turn green, but we can’t let that paralyze us.

Sometimes we hit a red light because it’s time to change direction. We need to go a different path than we had originally thought. That change of direction might lead us to a better destination – one we had never even imagined. Maybe the exact path doesn’t matter as long as we get to the end location. We must be careful to remember the destination as well as notice the journey. In life, we can lose sight of where we are headed while unfortunately some wander aimlessly, never even knowing where they are headed. We can also, in our haste, fail to pause and experience anything along the way. If the end result is the only thing that matters, we miss out.

Sometimes we choose to ignore the red light. We rush and dart in between the obstacles, thinking we are invincible. Sometimes the obstacles squash us. Sometimes we don’t see any obstacles. If nothing is coming, the red light appears useless. Sometimes our action causes grief for others. How many times have I had to slow my car down for the idiot who ignored the red light and walked across the street? We must be careful to look both ways before crossing the red light. We need to pause and consider why the red light is there and whether crossing it will cause harm to us or to others.

As we go through life, we will face red lights. When a red light stops us, we shouldn’t be surprised. Red lights can be great opportunities for evaluating our journey and our destination. Remember red lights are there to keep us safe.

Have you come against a red light recently? How did you handle it?