Red Light, Green Light


My five-year-old doesn’t like the idea of stoplights.  Every time we pull up to a red light, she says, “Go.”

“Honey, I can’t go,” I explain.  “If I go, I’ll hit the car in front of me.”

“Just go,” she says.

“Where do you think I should go?  There are three cars in my lane.”

“C’mon, just go!”

At this point my wife looks at me as if to say, “Why are you having this conversation?”  See, it’s not that my daughter doesn’t understand the concept of stoplights.  She just doesn’t like them.   She doesn’t like someone else telling her when to stop.

I can relate to that.  I’m a fantastic starter.   Stopping, however?  Still working on that one.  I like to work hard, play hard and cram as much into my life as possible.  I’m a green light kind of guy.

If you’re anything like me, you may struggle with stopping for all kinds of reasons.  Maybe you’re a people pleaser and have trouble saying no.  Too many people are depending on you.  They need you, and you like to feel needed.

Maybe you don’t want to miss out on some great opportunity at work or with your friends.   You don’t want to get passed over or be forgotten.

Or maybe you’re just driven.  You feel good when you accomplish things.  In fact, maybe you don’t feel good unless you’re accomplishing things.  What you do is who you are.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with accomplishment or seizing opportunities or helping people, but it’s easy to see how any of these things can become twisted.  It’s easy to see how we can turn our work and service into something dark and unhealthy.

And, often, that’s when we hit a red light.  We burn out at work.   Our health goes south.  Our relationships suffer.  We’re paralyzed with anxiety, depression or anger.  Something, or more accurately, Someone, is telling us it’s time to stop.

If we ignore these red lights in our lives, we’ll eventually crash, but like my five-year-old many of us don’t like to be told to stop.  So we stubbornly continue on, ignoring our health, our relationships and our hearts.

Over the last few years, I’ve come to understand that, yes, God made us for green lights. God made us to accomplish good things in our time on earth.  But, because He loves us, He gives us red lights too.  He tells us to rest and recharge and stop and listen.  He tells us to say no to great opportunities and put our work aside in certain seasons.

How about you?  Are there any red lights in your life that are telling you it’s time to stop?  Are you overcommitted?   Stressed out?  Exhausted?  Is there anything God’s telling you to lay down right now? Is there work you need to walk away from?   Is there someone you need to tell no?

If that’s you, accept the divine offer that Jesus once made.  “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 NLT).  Embrace the season of stopping.  Rest and renew your soul so that when your light turns green, you’re recharged and ready to go.

Image: ‘Signal to Noise
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1 thought on “Red Light, Green Light

  1. Thank you for this post. I like the analogy. I don’t like to stop at red lights on the road, and I don’t like to stop at figurative red lights, either. The light turned red for me back in November. I was pushing myself well beyond my limits on a project at work. I was trying to run under my own power. I became exhausted, ate poorly, gained weight and teetered on the edge of depression.

    I’ve finally started to learn that I’m not much good as a servant of Christ when I become consumed with work and seek my identity and satisfaction there. I don’t like to rest and I don’t like quiet. I think it’s human nature, which is exacerbated by living in modern, western civilization. When I rest I realize that, when I push too hard, I am trying to glorify myself instead of God. Resting helps me realize who it is, from whom I want to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

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