“I am following the river down the highway through the cradle of the civil war. I’m going to Graceland. Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee.” Paul Simon
When we moved into our house several years ago, I was amused when a elderly lady from across the street greeted me. “It’s so nice to have such a young family move into our neighborhood. We haven’t had anyone your age since that wonderful Presley boy moved away.” When she said this, I didn’t know she was referring to Elvis Presley.
In December of that year, my family was invited to a Christmas party. We accepted and walked down the street to our neighbor’s house. Since I did not know anyone at the party, I did what I usually do to break-the-ice, I told a few jokes. That was a big mistake!
I started off with an Elvis joke. No one laughed, so I tried another. Again, I received the same response. A lady standing near me pointed and whispered, “That’s Elvis’ old girl friend! He use to live a few blocks from here.” My face turned bright red, for I was not aware that he had once lived in the neighborhood.
On March 12th, 1956, Elvis purchased his first house. Several days later, along with his grandmother and parents, he moved into a four-bedroom ranch-style house located at 1034 Audubon Drive. If you have ever watched an Elvis special or read a biography, perhaps you have seen it. Sadly, he did not live here long, for when “Heartbreak Hotel” hit number one on the Billboard charts, the fans would not leave him alone.
It started in July when the neighbors called the police to disperse a crowd that had gathered in the street. In the months following, girls left lipstick messages on his automobiles, peeked through his windows, and plucked grass from his yard. Whenever he stepped outside, he was mobbed. To keep order, the city posted “No Loitering” signs, but the signs were ignored. Honking cars continued to cruise the street, and vendors arrived selling hot dogs and popcorn. Elvis’ notoriety and accessibility had made it impossible for him to continue to live in peace on Audubon Drive.
On March 25th, 1957, he moved away. Located on fourteen acres of land and surrounded with a rock wall, Graceland was a much quieter spot. The noise and hassle of the crowd was now a thing of the past.
Jesus of Nazareth was also pressed by the crowds during his lifetime (Matthew 9:35,36 and Matthew 14:13-16). His habit was not to move away but to periodically withdraw from the crowd for meditation (Matthew 4:1-11 and Matthew 17:1-9) and communication (Matthew 26:36-46). We are called to do the same (Psalm 46:10). Like Jesus, we must leave people to be with people.
Christian, are you up for the task?
“There is a place of quiet rest,
Near to the heart of God,
A place where sin can not molest,
Near to the heart of God.
O Jesus, blest Redeemer,
Sent from the heart of God,
Hold us, who wait before Thee,
Near to the heart of God.” C.B. McAfee