Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Gospel Song 'Take My Hand, Precious Lord'

Thomas Andrew Dorsey in 1991

Back in 1932, I was 32 years old and a fairly new husband. My wife, Nettie and I were living in a little apartment on Chicago's South-side. One hot August afternoon I had to go to St. Louis, where I was to be the featured soloist at a large revival meeting. I didn't want to go. Nettie was in the last month of pregnancy with our first child. But a lot of people were expecting me in St. Louis. I kissed Nettie good-bye, clattered downstairs to our Model A and, in a fresh Lake Michigan breeze, chugged out of Chicago on Route 66.

However, outside the city, I discovered that in my anxiety at leaving, I had forgotten my music case. I wheeled around and headed back. I found Nettie sleeping peacefully. I hesitated by her bed; something was strongly telling me to stay. But eager to get on my way, and not wanting to disturb Nettie, I shrugged off the feeling and quietly slipped out of the room with my music.

The next night, in the steaming St. Louis heat, the crowd called on me to sing again and again.

When I finally sat down, a messenger boy ran up with a Western Union telegram. I ripped open the envelope. Pasted on the yellow sheet was the words: YOUR WIFE JUST DIED. People were happily singing and clapping around me, but I could hardly keep from crying out. I rushed to a phone and called home. All I could hear on the other end was "Nettie is dead. Nettie is dead."

When I got back, I learned that Nettie had given birth to a boy. I swung between grief and joy. Yet that night, the baby died. I buried Nettie and our little boy together, in the same casket. Then I fell apart. For days I closeted myself. I felt that God had done me an injustice. I didn't want to serve Him any more or write gospel songs. I just wanted to go back to that jazz world I once knew so well. But then, as I hunched alone in that dark apartment those first sad days, I thought back to the afternoon I went to St. Louis Something kept telling me to stay with Nettie. Was that something God? Oh, if I had paid more attention to Him that day, I would have stayed and been with Nettie when she died .

From that moment on I vowed to listen more closely to Him. But still I was lost in grief. Everyone was kind to me, especially a friend, Professor Fry, who seemed to know what I needed. On the following Saturday evening he took me up to Malone's Poro College, a neighborhood music school. It was quiet; the late evening sun crept through the curtained windows. I sat down at the piano, and my hands began to browse over the keys. Something happened to me then. I felt at peace. I felt as though I could reach out and touch God. I found myself playing a melody, once into my head they just seemed to fall into place:

'Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand!
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn, through the storm,
through the night lead me on to the light,
Take my hand, precious Lord, Lead me home.'

The Lord gave me these words and melody; He also healed my spirit. I learned that when we are in our deepest grief, when we feel farthest from God, this is when He is closest, and when we are most open to His restoring power. And so I go on living for God willingly and joyfully, until that day comes when He will take me and gently lead me home.

Thomas Andrew Dorsey

Art Pierce sent me the above inspirational story. Have a great Lord's day.

In His Grace,



Anonymous said...

I anonymously asked a question back on you Wednesday post, the IMB Trustee Meeting. Since it was at the end of the thread, I'll ask again:

While I don't understand or agree with Jerry Corbaley's behavior, that is something between you and him. Was there no other trustee or brother in Christ there who could have gone with you to address this issue personally with Jerry, rather than report the incident to the world on your blog?

irreverend fox said...


Anonymous said...

Wade surely doesn't need anyone to defend him....let alone me. And this doesn't have a single solitary thing to do with this day's message on Wade's blog. Can I simply say with all due respect for Jerry Corbaley....he has lost sight of God's love for ALL mankind much to his protestations. He has a problem with self first (carnality). Corbaley didn't get his way in some things and Wade is taking it to the church after attempting to, for some time now, reconcile with Corbaley. said...


I didn't see your question earlier, so I apologize.

I do not believe the issue is simply between Jerry and me. The refusal to eat with me was in public, in a public cafeteria, in front of others. In addition, I agree with Jake - as a trustee we have a higher calling and accountability to be Christ-like in all our relationships. If Jerry is comfortable with his actions being Christ like, then there is nothing to say or do. I have already told him in our conversation that we have an obligation to the SBC to be Christ-like in our trustee relationships.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Wade, thanks for the "Take My Hand" story. I've known the hymn for years, but never heard the story behind it.

peter lumpkins said...


Thanks for the inspiration on Mr. Dorsey. I live just a few miles from his birthplace in Villa Rica, Ga. The song you cite is one of my all time Gospel favorites...

Grace today. With that, I am...


Alyce Faulkner said...

Wade, thanks for giving us the background of the birth of this song. This was my grandmothers favorite. She had a hard life, lost several children, lost two husbands. She prayed for me and I remember her often, singing and whistling this tune. It was her heart to be with God. She is now.
Her never ending faith and prayer opened her family to Gods grace.

Anonymous said...


If you will permit a question unrelated to your blog. I read your reports about the IMB meetings. I saw nothing about election of officers. Maybe I am blind - that is certainly the prevailing opinion of my wife.

When is the election of officers?

Dave Miller
Sioux City

Anonymous said...


When you reference "carnality," I wonder if that includes sipping booze with your church members and beyond.

Just wondering.

Anonymous said...


When God walked the earth in the form of Jesus he "sipped booze" with his followers in the upper room.

david b mclaughlin said...

i first learned this song from elvis. i stinking love this song!

i think ashley cleveland does a great version.

davidinflorida said...

Brother Wade,

Thanks for this story, God is good.

Caity said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Caity said...

Wade, I reealy loved your sermon today, and it got my attention with the Wal-mart thing and how nothing matters. Thanks, I'm looking forward to the series about death (If that may sound weird)

Anonymous said...

Jake you say

"When God walked the earth in the form of Jesus he "sipped booze" with his followers in the upper room."

Alert: Wade is not Jesus

Anonymous said...

I didn't say Jesus sipped booze with his followers in the upper room. That was written by "Jack" not Jake. However, Jesus did make wine from water at the wedding at Cannaa. At the behest of His mother no less. I know that I would certainly drink a glass of wine with either Jesus or Wade. And that my friend is not carnality. Pharisaical folks such as yourself would like to condemn temperate use of beverage alcohol as being carnal...but it's not. Only when one drinks to excess does Scripture condemn that usage. said...

Elections of officers takes place at the May board meeting, as well as the recongition of outgoing trustees.

foxofbama said...

Wade: I hope you and all who commented and read this story on Dorsey will make a point to rent the DVD Say Amen Somebody, the Black Gospel Documentary.
It is for the most part a tribute to Dorsey and he leads a white clothed angelic choir a year before he died in this song.
But the hit for me of the documentary is the song by the Blind Twins Jesus Dropped the Charges and the finale, I am Bound for Caanan's Land.
Who says us Modlibs don't have religion.
Like Leadbelly said, We got the "True Religion."

truth, not religion said...

Wade, I want to thank you for this post.

Yesterday, I buried a very dear friend. He died suddenly of a heart attack. He had no health problems. The Lord just called him home. He was 54.

My friend, Jim, was one of the best outreach witnesses I have ever known or heard of. In the last 20 years he had led thousands to his Lord. He was just a cowboy who trained horses and he also worked at an insurance company.

For over 20 years, he witnessed to 90% or more of the people he came across. . At times even I thought he was overboard. He worried about their souls.

He gave up on "church" 20 years ago and said that they had "to much of a religious spirit and not much of God's Spirit." He had services and worship in his home.

Truly a man of God who will be greatly missed.

Your post was one of his favorite songs and the post was perfect timing for my heart.

After reading {and hearing} the words of some denominational leaders and pastors, and even lay persons, I can began to see why this incredible man, who loved the Lord so much, would not go to "organized religious things"

Come on folks, love one another.

In His Service
Darrell Treat