Friday, February 17, 2006


By Marion Kelley Bullock

I probably should have stayed home that night, but I didn’t.

Instead, I sat there on the second row of my church’s chapel, listening as women from our mission organization presented the week of prayer program. One told about the struggles of a missionary in Nigeria. Another related the experiences of a missionary family in India. Then a woman led us in singing “We’ve a Story to Tell.”
Another report was made, this time about missionaries who work in Guatemala.

Again, the woman who had led the singing stood before us. “I especially like the song, “Take My Life, Lead Me, Lord,” she said. “We’ve sung it every morning this week.” The pianist gave an introduction.

I knew the song as well as I know my name. I plunged into it with the wild abandon which characterizes many of my undertakings. “Take my life...” My husband nudged me in the ribs, getting my attention and stopping my singing at the same time—fortunately.

I leaned over to him, naïve as yet as to the cause of his attention.

“I think it’s supposed to be a solo,” he whispered.

I inched myself back into position, at the same time managing to slink down farther into the pew. I grimaced slightly, wondering why I hadn’t stayed at home where idiots belong. I wished I might be able to nibble a wafer and grow small, like Alice—small enough to climb into my husband’s pocket and ride home in complete anonymity, unsubjected to the stares and ridicule of my peers.

Alas, it was not to be. Squeezing my eyes shut and squinching myself up into as tight a ball as I could, I was unable to change my stature by so much as one jot. I willed my frozen face back to its normal color and managed to walk woodenly out when the program concluded.

“Were you trying to give the soloist some help?” my husband teased me later.

“How could I possibly have known it was a solo? She hadn’t directed the congregational music with her hand, so I had no clue when she just stood there and started to sing the song she announced. Naturally, I thought we were all supposed to sing.”

“Naturally,” my husband agreed.

“Oh, did you think so, too?”


“But you didn’t sing. And neither did anybody else.” I was incensed.

“I was being cautious,” he explained, a sheepish grin on his face. “I wasn’t positively sure what we were supposed to do, so I waited to see. I suppose everybody else felt the same way.”

“Everybody but me.”


“So I, the bumbling dummy, just jumped right in without testing the water.”

“You could say that.”

“I thought I’d wither up and die,” I said. “I thought, 'what must all these people think of me.'”

“You wanta know?”


“They thought ‘there but for the grace of God, go I.’ You didn’t wither up and die, so forget it and go on living.”

And that’s what I did.