When I was in third grade, we took a "following directions" test. My teacher handed us a piece of paper with a list of directions on it, numbered one through ten. The numbers were instructions of things to do with the paper, like number one said, "draw two lines down the middle of this paper," and number two said, "fold the paper in half and then unfold it," and number nine said to cut the corners off the paper.
Well, I went to TOWN on that paper. I got out my ruler and I was drawing the straightest lines you've ever seen. And I had the crispest creases for step two, and I was like Edward (Safety) Scissorhands on step nine. Looking around the room, I could tell I was doing The Best Job.
Now, a couple kids, I noticed, at the very beginning, just got up and turned the paper in whole (gasp) to the teacher. Idiots.
And then... I got to step 10, which said, "Ignore steps one through nine. Put your name on the paper and turn it in."
I was furious; it was all a trick! Then I noticed the tiny directions that, in my Quest To Be The Best, I had failed to read before I began. A line at the top of the paper said, "Read all the directions before you begin."
All my effort, for nothing. My perfect creases and measured lines didn't matter. Only one thing had been required: put your name on the paper and turn it in. It was such a simple assignment, and I had made it so complicated.
The other day I was driving home, and a rainstorm had just passed, leaving the late afternoon sun bursting through storm-drenched clouds. Rays of sun were streaming down, tracing their way from heaven to earth. It was so glorious. It was one of those moments in life when clarity strikes. It was like God was speaking to my heart, saying, "Only one thing is required."
I got it. Maybe for the first time ever, I got it. I can put away my ruler and my scissors. I can stop looking around to see how everyone else is doing. In life, there are no steps one to ten to follow. Only one thing is required, and for me, that one thing is to know God. To realize His awesome love for me. To write my name in the Book of Life, so to speak, and turn it in.
A wise man said it this way, "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" Not much. What an epiphany for this student of perfectionism. Only one thing is required, and it's the simplest task of all. Just be still and know that He is God.