Being from the Memphis area I knew about Graceland, but never really had a desire to go visit it. I knew Elvis to be a legend and have always respected the influence he had on music. I even like some of his songs. Graceland was just not something that I desired to go and see.
My wife, on the other hand, loves historical places and really wanted to see Elvis’ home. I surprised her with a trip into Memphis and tickets to Graceland, I knew I earned major points with the wife for taking her there but I was unprepared for what God had waiting to show me through the experience.
First, a little about Graceland. Elvis bought the property when he was only 22 years old for 100,000 dollars in the 1950’s. He later added everything from a horse ranch to a racquetball court. The style of the décor was extreme even for the 60s and 70s. Bright color, shag carpet, and a variety of strange wall and ceiling décor abound.
His house represented his persona, he was original, perhaps more than any artist before or after him. And because of his extreme musical talent and good looks, almost everyone caught the King fever. He was a legend before he was 30. To put it in perspective, Elvis had 114 songs make the Top 40 billboard charts. The Beatles had 50. This will probably floor you but the artist closest to Elvis is Lil Wayne with 64. That absolutely shocked me. Elvis is arguably the most successful musician ever to live. It is estimated that Elvis has sold more than 1 billion records worldwide, no one even comes close to that. No doubt a Legend among Legends.
What smacked me in the face from my time at Graceland was the absolute fact that money and fame will not buy you happiness. The tour could have been called “Elvis’ Journey to Find Happiness.” Throughout the progressions and brief digression of his career, you see a man who came to have everything. He was nearly untouchable. Elvis would take his golf cart and drive down the street in front of his house, holding up traffic in the busy heart of Memphis and never be pulled over. Who gets away with a stunt like that! He had mayors eating out of his hand for who he wanted in key positions. He wanted it, he got it. Hundreds of people followed him around ready to serve him.
Yet, it became easier and easier for me to read between the lines of his life as the tour advanced. Elvis was seeking something more, something greater to fulfill him. It alluded him in the money, cars, women, music, fame, houses, family, and power. He turned later to prescription meds to dull the disillusionment. None of this fulfilled his restlessness.
He had everything but seemed a pauper in spirit. I do not claim to know the heart of Elvis or where he stood with God. What I do know is he won only two Oscars and both were for gospel songs. He loved to sing gospel music and people loved to hear him do it. Gospel music was in his blood, put there by his parents. Yet, his life seemed to be lived in a way that missed the messages of what he loved to sing. He was looking for something greater and it was in his favorite songs the whole time. His first Oscar was for his rendition of “How Great Thou Art.” They were playing it in the room during the tour, where his hundreds of gold records were plastered on the wall. I heard Elvis’ voice crooning these words:
And when I think of God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!
We are a lot like Elvis. We sing the songs and hear the messages but do we listen to them? We sing about the power of sin being destroyed in our life by the sacrifice of Christ, but do we still live in a way that looks for happiness in the world? Does it affect one iota of how we live?
At the end Elvis died of a heart attach due to a drug overdose. I don’t judge him as much as fear I might be like him. Oh it won’t be drugs that I use to cope but it very well might be something else. Something else to help me endure the fact that my pursuit of the things of this world rather than Christ will only lead to heartache and sadness. I will never be a legend like Elvis, except in my own mind. But I can be on the same vain pursuit of worldly happiness. Like Elvis I will never find what my soul seeks on this earth… and neither will you, my friend.
8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.