A colleague of mine went to have some blood tests at a typical lab nearby. Being a good observer, he noted that the building was a modern structure with little architectural adornment. His eyes looked instead upon the office decoration, which allows people to reveal something of their individuality. In a workaday world, such observations can provide some spice to an otherwise bland experience.
As the nurse took down his personal details on the computer, he saw a decorative wood block that read ASAP—supposedly referring to the need to get things done “as soon as possible.” Such a reference is not surprising since the medical business models are often based on efforts to maximize efficiency. Time is money and is not to be wasted. Getting it done quickly is the norm.
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However, my colleague was surprised when he read the meaning assigned to the acronym. It was not “as soon as possible,” but written out beneath the big letters were the words: Always Stop and Pray. He breathed a sigh of relief upon seeing the nurse’s priorities.
He congratulated the nurse on the sign and its much-needed message. She was pleasantly surprised by his remark and thanked him. When asked if the idea for the wood block was her own or someone else’s, she replied that she had found the block for sale at a shop and bought it.
The exchange led to an interesting conversation about the need for stopping to reflect and then the action of prayer to get things done calmly and carefully. Impressed by the experience, he told the nurse he would pass on the episode to others who might benefit from it.
Upon hearing the story, I certainly benefited from it. I could not help but reflect that many of the problems we face today come from choosing the wrong ASAP.
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One ASAP represents the frenetic intemperance of our daily lives where people insist upon having everything instantly, effortlessly and vehemently. They let their passions take control to maximize pleasure and self-interest in the least amount of time. This ASAP mentality creates a culture of impulsiveness that destroys institutions and families that generally serve to temper the disordered passions and regulate our actions toward virtue.
We find this frenetic intemperance everywhere and in every field, doing its damage, especially corroding human relationships that require time, effort and affection. Everything is ASAP to the detriment of all those more spiritual and cultural things that make life worth living. All is centered on self, without consideration of others.
The second ASAP serves as a reminder that there are things more important than material benefits and disordered pleasures. We are encouraged to stop before acting to reflect upon what we are doing.
During this interval of reflection, we might think about the norms of courage, duty, courtesy, justice and charity that should govern and regulate our actions. This slight pause prepares us to direct ourselves yet higher to God.
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Thus, comes the encouragement to prayer that should orient our priorities. By directing a brief prayer to God, we acknowledge our contingency upon the Creator from whom all good things come.
“Always stop and pray” is good advice to guide us through our daily trials. Everyone senses the need to disengage from the frenetic intemperance of modern life. For this reason, the wood block found itself on the nurse’s desk and my colleague’s reflections. The block played its tiny role in reducing the intemperance of the times.
In both ASAPs, we may do the same work and even with the same result. However, the two ASAPs represent two ways of life. One ASAP is agitated, and the other is calm. One is disordered, and the other is reflective. Indeed, doing things with God in mind gives meaning and purpose to life.
The world would be much better if everyone always stopped and prayed. It would be good for people to start doing this as soon as possible.