On Split-Second Decisions and Red-Light Tickets

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On Split-Second Decisions and Red-Light Tickets

On Split-Second Decisions and Red-Light Tickets:

“Smile. You’re on camera.” My husband shouted.

I glimpsed up into Robert’s face as he entered our condo foyer.”Me smile?” I asked. “Then why are you frowning?”

“The red-light camera flashed before my eyes.”

I gulped. “Anyone hurt?”

With slumped shoulders, he walked nearer to me. “My pride. I didn’t see the red.”

“You drive – -.” I stopped mid sentence and clamped my mouth shut. But my thought persisted. You drive too fast. You drive too fast . . . until I looked into Robert’s puppy dog brown eyes. After forcing a scant smile, I shrugged, “Oh well – – I deserve far more tickets than I receive.”

“I dreaded telling you.” His tone lightened.

“How did it happen?”

“I don’t know—distracted. At the intersection at Vista Way and Emerald the camera flashed. It happened in a split second.”

I nodded while thinking about my own driving habits. Too often, I seemingly sit behind the steering wheel of my car like a quasi robot. The engine revs and tires roll me along from point A to C, while I am unaware as to when I passed point B. I may drive slower than others, but I don’t necessarily drive more focused.

In a split second, I empathized with my husband. Later that evening, I commented, “Perhaps there was a glitch in the camera – – you won’t receive a ticket.”

“Don’t count on it.” Sure enough. Seven days later, Robert’s standoff with the camera was depicted on paper. He received a letter from the Sheriff’s office of Vista, California. And attached to it were color photos of him driving across an intersection. The light was red. Specifics regarding the fine and procedures for going to court would follow. Suspense mounted.

Days later.

“How much?” I prodded as Robert tore open the anticipated envelope.

He scanned the small print, then whispered. “$535.00 plus traffic school.”


As I blog, Robert is attending traffic school. His court date is nearing and soon the ordeal will be forgotten and filed in our catalog of “Remember When” stories. I hope not. I don’t want to forget what split-second decisions and red-light cameras now represent to me.

Perhaps Robert received the citation, but I too gained from his experience. And not so I can nag him about driving too fast. Or because I need to drive more focused. I believe that in glaring red, God used the event to get my attention. He prompted me to stop, look and listen to what is happening within me. And to where I am going.


To reassess. I love writing fiction. I could probably plop down with my computer and see no other soul for hours, even days. I mentally zone to a fictitious world where I create settings; where I cast doom or calm to a landscape. Unreal characters become real as their personalities blossom within my presence. They plead their cases to resolve conflicts. They even tease me as the story unfolds. While I write I can become distracted from my real world, so much so, that I might isolate myself in an unhealthy manner.

In red, God reminds me that life isn’t just about me. It is about His eternal purpose. It’s about others—family, friends and those He places on my path. It’s about His assignments entrusted to me.

Since last fall, I have buried my stepfather; I was very sick with bronchitis; I went through an outpatient biopsy procedure (which thankfully turned out to be benign). Five special people in my life lost battles with cancer. A dear friend was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and I continued to wait for my novel to be published. Consequently, I couldn’t process my emotions fast enough. And soon after the holidays, I began responding emotionally the way I sometimes drive—in quasi robot mode. I was preoccupied. My emotional reservoir ran dry. I tried to process everything in my own strength. But I could not.

What was I to do? I stopped to reassess. I believed that each individual and personal event was assigned to me from God. To not be involved in each would have been my loss. What I failed to recognize, though, was that my assignments were not meant to be accomplished in my strength.

Not by I, myself or me. My life is about Christ in me. “. . . to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:26-27). In a split second, He comforts, protects and guides me.


Look to the least of these. Before my stepfather passed away, he was living in a nursing home. I cherish good memories of him, and it was an honor to be near him during the weakest years of his life. The nursing home where he lived, for eight years, took wonderful care of him. While visiting, I showed gratitude to the staff there. Good for me. But the faces of other patients in the same facility are a blur in my memory. Why? Because I snubbed them. To me, nursing homes are depressing places. I see most of the patients living on the long-term care floors as weak, some are terminally ill. Also I’m shaken when an adult requires a diaper change or needs a drool wiped from his mouth.

I feel uncomfortable – – I feel uncomfortable.

Still—Jesus asks me to look to the least of these. Through me, He wants to touch them. My uncomfortable feelings are somewhat irrelevant. He wants me—to embrace weaknesses from His point of view, and to realize that a nursing facility may someday be my home too.


Listen to the cry of the abandoned. I know abandonment, having experienced it more than once in my lifetime. But the most significant abandonment was at the death of my father. It wasn’t an abandonment that my dad chose for me. Yet his absence during my childhood felt like a dagger had pierced my heart. Secretly and slowly my wounds bled. In time, my Heavenly Father healed me. Yet scars on my soul remained. During my teen years, confusion and insecurity ticked like time bombs within my temptations. It seemed as if my directionless life followed a vague topography map instead of a detailed road map. I felt lost without the touch of my dad’s guidance.

Christ calls me to listen to the cries of others who also deal with abandonment issues. Every day I pass those who cry out. In a split second, I change the volume on my radio from loud to louder. I drown out their cries. I don’t engage with them because I refuse to willingly let my scars be ripped open—to relive my desperation and pain. But the cry of the abandoned won’t be silenced. I ask Jesus. “Isn’t my distant empathy sufficient? Can’t I just pray for the abandoned?” I sense His answer based on His actions portrayed throughout Scripture. His will for me is to let my sufferings reveal His compassion. For His glory, He wants to touch others who are abandoned.

I believe God used the red-light ticket to remind me of my split-second choices. He desires me to see that when I become too preoccupied with my own stuff, I become less focused on my relationship with Christ and others. I searched His heart for what really matters on this earth. And I discovered that it wasn’t in my strength, my self-righteousness, my net worth, nor was it in my publishing a novel.

I concluded that He may or may not take a photo of me whizzing through a red light. And that though He understands how preoccupied I become; He ensures me that He is forever intimately occupied with me. Every Day He instructs me to stop, look and listen. He asks me to engage in His split-second decisions regarding others. He reminds me that life isn’t just about me. It is about Him in me. He can touch others through my hands and feet. My role is to let Him.

And so I smile.

Cause I’m on His camera.

“. . . Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You? Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me'” (Matthew 25: 44b-45).