Red Lights

When I have an appointment in the larger town to our south, I usually try to pile up errands and squeeze in a lunch with a friend to make the miles worth it. A couple of weeks ago I called a friend to meet me for lunch. “Where do you want to meet?” She asked

“I like either Panera Bread or Meeting Grounds,” I said. We decided on Meeting Grounds because it was closer to her place of employment.

I was running a few minutes late when I arrived at the restaurant and had to park half a block away because the parking lot was full.  I was surprised she wasn’t there already, but that was fine. I stood in line and proceeded to study the menu while I waited. When my turn came up, I let the person behind me go ahead. “It’s okay,” I said. “I am waiting for someone.”

I decided on soup and half a flatbread sandwich. Then I remembered that Panera always gives you bread with your soup whether you get a sandwich or not. So I’d just do the soup. My friend hadn’t come even though I let two more people pass me in line.

“Oh no!” My heart suddenly skipped a beat. “We decided on Meeting Grounds!” I ran out to the car, already ten minutes late. I didn’t have my friend’s cell phone number with me…big mistake.

Meeting Grounds was about three miles away. There were several lights on the way and I knew these could really be my enemies. Sure enough, I was stopped by a light turning red just one block from Panera. “This is crazy,” I thought.

Finally, it turned green. I could see the green light four blocks and hoped I would make it. But it turned red and I had to stop again. “Practice meditation,” I said to myself. So I breathed in and out slowly and tried to think kind thoughts about the other drivers around me. When the light turned green, I sped ahead only to be stopped by a third red light at a juncture where I would be turning left. “Am I supposed to be learning a lesson in patience?” I wondered. I remembered being told never to pray for patience. God’s teaching methods can really be annoying. “I am already a patient person,” I told God. “This is a waste of your time.”

Finally, the little green arrow signaled me to turn and I headed up the cross street perfectly aware that there were two more signal lights between me and Meeting Grounds. Another red. “This isn’t fair,” I said. I struggled to figure out what the lesson was here. “Control. I need to learn that I am not always in control. Not my will by but thine be done and all that.” I was hoping I was getting closer to the truth. For some reason, I thought if I could get the point of this torment, everything would start working in my favor. It worked for Job.

Of course, I did not have a green at the next light. I  sat, trying not to get mad. I am not a road rage person. No rage for me, nosirree. “I am just going to keep cool. If my friend leaves, we will meet another time,” I told myself. “I am okay with this. I am really okay with this.” The light changed and I pulled forward. I could see the next light ahead. My phone rang. That’s her,” I thought. But it was another person telling me that she wanted to donate a basket for a fundraiser that I was working on. More self-talk: “Is this why I am late? So I will be in my car long enough to get this phone call?”  I started to argue my case:  “But I don’t think it is a good reason, God,” I explained. “My friend is waiting for me. She is being punished unnecessarily.”

The next and last light was red and I had to wait again. I would still have to find a parking place and walk to the restaurant. I started to laugh. I think I was laughing because of what was running through my mind. “Conspiracy!” I thought.  I couldn’t imagine God weaving a conspiracy plot. But my dead relatives! Maybe they were plotting to teach me a lesson.

My friend was still in the restaurant when I got there. Typically not judgmental, she asked, “Are you okay?”

“It’s  all good,” I said. “Let’s eat. I’ll explain over a pastrami sandwich.” Lesson learned? I still don’t have a clue.