I learned a cultural lesson living in Haiti. It was not uncommon for a friend to take my hand as we walked in public. The gesture prevented other pedestrians from interrupting our conversation. In our culture, handholding is a public display of affection or practical support for a child or someone with mobility challenges. There are reasons handholding is an apt metaphor for the loving presence of God.

The path of Thomas Dorsey’s life led to an intense moment when he sought God’s presence. He was born into a pastor’s family. He became a blues musician in the 1920’s and continued to apply his talent in church music. He married, and by age 32 he had a child on the way. Life was good!

He explains what happened next. “I was in a revival. My wife was to become a mother. She was well when I left home. They sent for me to come to the door for a telegram. I read it. ‘Hurry home. Your wife just died.’ I couldn’t accept it at all. A friend took me home.  I jumped out, ran in to see if it was really true. One of the girls cried, ‘Nettie just died!’ In the next two days, the baby died. Two friends came by. I was trying to make my little talk to the Lord. One of them said call Him, ‘Precious Lord.’ I started singing it then and there.”

Here’s what he sang: “Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand! I’m tired, I’m weak, I’m worn. Through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light. Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home.” In his moment of shock and grief Dorsey needed the steadying strength of the Lord’s hand.

In such times, the intense, emotive questions of life push away trivialities. What can I know? What am I to do? Where is the hope? Philosopher Immanual Kant believed those three questions define the objectives of human reason. Dorsey answered in faith: I know the Precious Lord; He will lead me; He has a home for me. The Bible says it this way: “Those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right” (1 Pet. 4:19).

In seeking God’s presence, strength, and light, Dorsey learned to live with loneliness, weakness, and the dark night of his soul. He remarried and had two children. He penned thousands of gospel songs, earning him the moniker, “Father of Gospel Music.” He later added a verse to his famous song. “Precious Lord, I love your name. When I look back from whence I came… many are gone but still I’m here. Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home.” Dorsey was 93 when he went home.