Red light, red light, what do you say? I say stop and stop right away. Yellow light, yellow light, what do you mean? I mean wait until the light turns green. Green light, green light, what do you say? I say go but look both ways. Thank you, thank you, red, yellow and green. Now I know what the traffic lights mean.

~Anonymous

The first car I ever learned how to drive on was a red-hot Toyota Tercel. It was my Aunts car and it was a standard. I was in Newfoundland for the summer hanging out with my Grandparents and my Grandpa decided it was time for me to learn how to drive.

The conversation went a little something like this…

Grandpa: “Freddy (his nickname for me), you think you’re up for some driving today?”
Annoying 16-year-old Cindy: “No way – shut up – are you like, for real?”
Grandpa: “I figure your mom won’t mind and you gotta learn sometime.”
Annoying 16-year-old Cindy: “Grandpa, you are like, seriously, like, soooooo awesome (insert high pitched voice at the tail end of the word awesome). Auntie B’s car is like WAY cooler than our minivan!”

Exadoor (my nickname for him) taught me everything there was to know about driving: how to parallel park, how to get the car rolling again after having to stop on a hill (which is extremely frightening), how to gain control of the wheel should you lose control on icy streets, how to pump the break if you find yourself sliding on black ice and how to focus even when loud passengers are distracting you (i.e. annoying little sisters whom your parents make you drive around all the time).

But the one thing I remember the most is his traffic light test.

He taught me: 1. How to shift gears oh so smooth while slowing down for a yellow light so that the car feels like it’s moving through butter. 2. How to stop at a red light without even feeling the car halt – the true test being whether you make liquid spill or not. 3. How to start up again when the light turns green without being a driver that bucks. And for those of you who have learned how to drive a standard, you‘ll know that that’s truly a hard skill to master (and an embarrassing one). If you rev too fast, you buck. If you don’t rev enough, you buck. If you rev the gas and slightly hold the break, you ease forward like a pro. Thanks to Exadoor I mastered it after 32 attempts (what a patient Grandpa).

Lately I’ve been thinking about traffic lights….

Green means go. I like green. With places to go and people to see, I’m happy when every light gives ME the right of way (who cares about the opposing traffic).

Red means stop. I don’t like red. Red tells me to stop when I don’t want to. They take my already busy days and make them slower and less productive. Side note: Wouldn’t it be cool to have an iphone app that controlled the lights?

And then there’s yellow; yellow means slow. At least it’s supposed to mean slow, but if I were really honest, I’d admit that I rarely slow down. I almost always try to be that car, you know, the one that try’s to make it through the light. I even do a quick red light camera check before deciding whether to accelerate or slam on the breaks. It’s terrible I know, but it is in fact what I do (and I’m betting a lot of you do it too).

I’ve realized my life is a lot like a traffic light.

Healthy means go. I like healthy. With places to go, people to see, goals to accomplish and success to be had, I’m happy when my life is on track. I can drive full speed ahead with nothing holding me back. Momentum, momentum, momentum!

Sick means stop. I don’t like sick. Sick tells me to stop when I don’t want to. It takes my already busy life and makes it slower and less productive and that’s the opposite of momentum.

And then there’s exhaustion; exhaustion means slow. At least, it’s supposed to mean slow, but if I were really honest, I’d admit that I rarely slow down. I often tend to think I can outrun tiredness and beat burnout, that I’m invincible, that I’m super women and if you listen close enough, you’ll hear me roar. It’s terrible I know, but it is in fact what I do (and I’m betting a lot of you do it too).

If my Grandpa left Newfoundland and flew to Alberta to observe my life, I’m pretty sure he would say I fail his traffic light test…

1. My life does not stop the way he taught me. When the red light hits, or the hard time arrives, sadly, coffee is flying, tires are screaming and break pads are smoking. I stop because something or someone made me stop, not because I wanted to or voluntarily did so. I wish I could confidently admit that I handle all of life’s “red” setbacks with a little bit of grace and a lot of dignity, but usually I’m kicking and screaming because, well, I don’t really have a valid excuse, I do it because I’m a stubborn child throwing a temper tantrum. It’s hard to learn the ugly truths about your life when you’re down in the valley, so an easy solution is to do what you can to avoid them.

2. I so don’t shift smoothly when I feel like my life is heading towards a change. Usually I speed straight through the yellow in hopes to miss the red. So when one fails to recognize ‘yellow’ as a valuable season of growth, how can one ever fully learn the value of gearing down and preparing for what one might learn during the rest period. For the record – I’m not proud to be admitting these things. It’s humbling really.

3. Go – I’d like to say I ease forward like a pro, but I’m not ever slight in my approach. As soon as my life has vision, meaning and purpose again, I’m like a dog being let off of its lease. I rev, I buck, I rev again, I buck, I full on throttle, I buck and I buck some more. I’m just so excited to be moving that I don’t think about slow acceleration. Besides, how is it possible to attempt gradual in a society that is one giant, pedal to the metal, road race?

Is this not also how we live our christian lives? Like Carrie Underwood, we say “Jesus Take The Wheel” (ha ha, cheeeeeeesy), but really we are cars steering our own destiny’s. Stopping is a good thing. Doing nothing is a good thing. Slowing down and living life at a turtle pace is a good thing. Moving is a good thing. They’re all good. At different times of life, we require different speeds. But the important thing to remember is that you really do need all the speeds. The traffic light became my reminder of that – may it be yours too.

My soul finds rest in God alone, my salvation come from him. He alone is my rock and salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. 

~Psalm 62:1&2

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With a million things to do and not enough hours in the day to get it done, it's easy to zone out and slip into autopilot in order to survive. But perhaps life is not about adding more things to your already lengthy list, but rather, about pausing in the midst of it all to consider if what you're doing is really important.