Fun fact: Did you know the original colors of the traffic light were red (stop), white (go), and green (caution)?

We all know a traffic light or signal when we see one. Typically, we have a love/hate relationship with the traffic light. We don’t like to be stuck at lights. Plus, it always seems like we get red or yellow when we’re in a rush.

A traffic light can be defined as a set of automatically operated colored lights—typically red, amber, and green—for controlling traffic at road junctions and crosswalks. Green means go, red means stop, and yellow/amber means slow down because a red light is coming.

In fact, the red light indicates that danger is on the other side of the light. A red light beckons us to stop so we can avoid danger (i.e., a car speeding the opposite direction that could harm us if we keep moving forward).

How is a pre-married ministry like a traffic light?

Years ago in our pre-married class at Watermark (called Merge), I started to use the image of a traffic light to help couples discern next steps in their relationship. While in our class, the green, yellow, and red lights have nothing to do with automobile traffic, they do provide a helpful guide for ministry leaders and mentor couples.

As you lead pre-married couples, this simple analogy helps guide them to think about moving forward towards engagement or marriage, hitting the pause/slow down button, or encouraging couples to end their relationship.

Green means “go”

This means you’re excited about a couple moving forward towards engagement or marriage. Friends and family support and cheer the couple on as they move forward in their relationship.

No, this doesn’t mean the couple is perfect. But it does mean they’re making good decisions in their relationship. You’d be honored to officiate or attend this wedding ceremony!

Yellow means “slow down”

Trouble is coming in the opposite direction and couples need to be cautious about moving forward. For a pre-married couple, a yellow light doesn’t mean they need to break-up, but it does mean they should slow down and process things at a deeper level.

The typical “yellow light” couple has some questions they need to answer before they either move forward toward engagement and marriage or before they hit the eject button.

Red means “stop”

Danger is coming, hit the eject button, and get out while you still can! For the pre-married couple who gets a red light, this means there are some major barriers in place that should lead them to break up. This might be because they’re unequally yoked, which is when a Christian marries a non-Christian.

The Bible doesn’t tell us who we should marry, but it’s very clear a Christian shouldn’t marry a non-believer (See 2 Corinthians 6:14). Or maybe there’s some major dysfunction in their relationship (i.e., infidelity, unaddressed addictions or unhealthy pre-married sexual activity). Or perhaps the couple can’t learn how to communicate and resolve conflict.

Other people around the “red light” couple are begging and pleading for them to break-up. It’s not because they don’t want the couple to be happy, but rather because they love them and don’t want them to sign up for a life of misery together or a future divorce.

Unfortunately, in my experience, too many couples in the red zone keep going forward. This happens because the couple doesn’t want to hear what others say, or because others are too afraid to share their concerns.

Ready or Knot?

I wrote Ready or Knot? 12 Conversations Every Couple Needs to Have before Marriage to help provide guidance. The book is intended to help couples see if their “traffic light” is green, yellow, or red.

I wrote it as a biblical, practical, and authentic guide to help couples take the next best step in their relationship. I pray couples would read Ready or Knot? and break-up. I also pray the money they spent on the book would spare them much pain and hurt in the future.

I also wrote Ready or Knot? to help “green light” couples move forward toward marriage with confidence. Too many couples move towards marriage with excess levels of fear and anxiety. While the decision is a big one, Ready or Knot? can help a couple say “I do” with joy and confidence in the Lord.

As you counsel pre-married couples, where do you think they land?

  • Are they green? Let’s hear those wedding bells.
  • Are they yellow? What can we do to help them figure out the next step?
  • Are they red? Let’s help them end things so they don’t end up living in misery or getting divorced. The break-up is the best possible result for some couples.