“Mom, can I borrow your phone? I need to look something up.”
This is a familiar request from Blake. At fifteen, he still rejects the notion of carrying a cell phone with him. He has no problem borrowing my smart phone, though. I know better than to ask what he wants to look up. It’s usually a religious question, or a prayer.
“Sure, honey,” I say. “Bring it over to me when you’re finished.”
I head to the waiting line of cars. I volunteer at Blake’s school each morning in the valet line. It’s a student drop-off system that I coordinate. The goal is to keep the parking lot freer of cars. I see it as a chance to say “Good morning!” to lots of fresh faces and, hopefully, brighten a few mornings. It’s busy this morning and the time slips by before I realize that Blake has not returned my phone yet. When there is a break in the traffic, I find him still sitting in the back seat of our car.
“Are you done yet?” I ask him.
Then I see his face. There’s panic covering it. His forehead is furrowed, his eyes are wide.
“Not even close!” he blurts out.
I try to ask what is going on, but before I can, Blake is begging to go back home.
“I can’t stay here! I have to go home!”
“What is it?”
“It’s a prayer. There’s a prayer I have to say and I can’t remember it. I forgot to bring I with me.”
“You can say it later, when you get back home. Go to class now, honey.”
“No! You don’t understand! I can’t eat! I can’t go to class! I can’t do ANYTHING!!!!”
“Blake, God will forgive you for missing a prayer. Religion isn’t supposed to stress you out or interfere with you meeting your obligations to home and school.”
“No! You have to take me home! Or can you go home and bring it back?”
“No, Blake. You can get the prayer after school.”
“No! I can’t!”
“Blake, I have to go back to my responsibilities.” I suggest to him that he call his uncle or the religious leader who has been mentoring him, and I go back to back to tending to the students.
When I see him, several minutes later, he is calm and on his way to class.
“I found the prayer online,” he says. He’s fine. I’m rattled. My phone chimes. I have a text from the religious leader. He saw a missed call come in from my phone.
“Is everything okay? I’m in a meeting,” reads the text.
“Yes. It was Blake,” I write back.
“I’ll call later.”
I cry tears as I open car doors. It just feels good that someone cares enough to text back.
Later, the religious leader and I speak and I tell him what happened – the panic, the refusal to go to school.
“That’s not religion,” he concurs. “Religion is not supposed to impede our lives. It is supposed to lift us up. If some religious task, like doing a prayer, is making us panic, we have to move on. I’ll be seeing him in the next few days. That’ll give us a chance to talk about this.”
I am grateful that we have this man in our lives. I still barely know him, but he has reached out plenty to Blake and our family. When we chose to find a religious mentor for a child with OCD in the form of scrupulosity, we didn’t know if it would help or hurt. So far, the guidance he is giving is sound. He is learning to recognize what is OCD and what is religion. Perhaps, one day, Blake will recognize the same.