People commonly speak of finding themselves. Finding themselves somewhere far away. They had to get alone with themselves. Away from their lives. And be alone. To find who they really are.
For me, that place is not some unknown destination. Not a foreign land nor a foreign corner of the earth… but simply within the streets of the city where I was born.
I sit right now on the roof of the historic Peabody hotel, surrounded by downtown Memphis. I’m in a chair that I carried out here, looking out to the west, beholding the loveliest sight, in my opinion, that Tennessee has to offer… the sunset over the Mississippi river. As it is slowly sinking into the west, it’s casting late-day, early March rays over the resilient waters of the powerful Mississippi river, and a breeze has swept into downtown Memphis… bringing the perfect end to the perfect day. The bands playing on Beale Street are in distant earshot.
Today was the nicest day I have seen or experienced in years, of which I can remember. I sat with a dear friend in Overton park. I ate the finest barbecue lunch Memphis has to offer. I stood by the Mississippi river. And I played a piano in what used to be a thriving nightclub atop the Peabody.
Though I consider myself a man of faith, I don’t view myself as a super spiritual guy. I strongly believe in Jesus and everything that goes along with believing in Him. But as a spiritual person, I find myself a little more callused. A little more difficult to deeply move…
But not in Memphis. Everything I know, and everything I’ve ever known, begins and ends right here. I feel a spiritual power in this city that I cannot explain. I feel it in the cemetery where my loved ones, even the ones I didn’t personally know, were laid to rest. I feel it at the sight of Graceland. I feel it at Memphis’ Overton park. I feel it driving down Popular Avenue. I cannot explain what I feel, other than it is an undeniable sense that there is something more to life than what I am accustomed to knowing. It is a renewed knowledge of facts. That God and Heaven are very real. That one never truly dies. That my life has some sort of reason for being.
I believe that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Yet, i can’t help but also feel that the spirits of those who have gone on still enrich this place… and I only know this feeling here in Memphis. My great-grandmother, who most recently left us… it seems as if she is encouraging me to continue on, and to put out the effort to do a better job of being a human. And my grandfather, who’s footsteps in which I’ve followed… proud of me, and pushing me, maybe, to find what I’m looking for. And of the singing sensation who I was never able to meet, because he passed before my time… but who’s life, music and presence on this planet were so powerful that it touched and impacted the lives and hearts of millions and generations to come… somehow I can feel him here, too… and if he’s saying anything, it’s to enjoy the ride… to take some time to relax and enjoy this life i’ve been given. He loved this place, and maybe part of him is still with us in Memphis.
Whether or not these spiritual emotions are entirely real… I know for sure that One Spirit is forever real, and that is the Spirit God has given to us. Any moment in which I have ever TRULY known peace or TRULY know life; it was Him that revealed it. And He has sealed my sole to Christ, guaranteeing that when this life and this temporary presence are over, I will live on with Him.
That Spirit, and the Savior who gives it, are all that matters.
Only in Memphis do I find a sense of who I really am. Only in Memphis do I feel in touch with the spiritual side of life. Only in Memphis dare I speak of spiritual things that would seem outrageous to speak of anywhere else. And only in Memphis, these days, do I find a sense of peace.
Peace is a tricky thing in my life. Whereas my exterior is a portrait of confidence, the interior very much lacks that. Peace weaves in and out of me, being made known in some areas of my life and heart, but a stranger to some areas of my life and mind.
In Memphis, I was born. In Memphis, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord. In Memphis, I was baptized. In Memphis, I have found people who legitimately care about me. In Memphis, I first experienced a type of love and companionship I had never known… and though it is now gone, I still remember it. In Memphis, I have experienced some of the best and worst moments of my life. So my ties to this place are more than organic… it’s some level of power I’m not used to.
In Memphis I can feel the power of every person I’ve ever loved. My mom, my dad. All of my grandparents. Such powerful spiritual people who have influenced me… but today, I finally realize… that I’m one of them. There’s a reason I experience these feelings here. This essence place is a part of me, and perhaps I of it. And I live with power that is not my own, but given to me from Above. I feel the power when I’m able to pull off a great Spiritual song or testimony on stage. Or when I fall for a girl and realize that I have so much of me to give to her… though usually, she couldn’t care less. It’s a blessing to live with power and to see God using it in my life… which I do. This power is available to everyone, and is only a gift from Above. Thank you God for your blessings that You give us to help us live.
So, what’s the bottom line? What am I trying to say in all of this? I’m trying to say that on this crazy journey of life, I believe that God gives us tools and signs to help us along the way. And in the light of visiting where I come from and finding another piece of myself here, I realize two things that can benefit everyone. First, your loved ones that have passed have not completely left you. Second, that there is ALWAYS reason to continue living, because you are here for a reason. And you’re never alone.
After I left the Peabody, I hopped music stores in Bartlett, and then retired to my grandparents’ house… a timeless place of constant peace in my crazy life, where I enjoyed conversation with my grandma and relaxing watching television.
I hope that from what I have learned here in Memphis today, you can take some new knowledge with you as well. There is meaning to life. I don’t know when I’ll find it. But I believe that I will, and that we all will. There is reason to continue living. There is a reason that our natural instinct is to survive. And it is divine reasoning. This life is not an empty journey. It means something. That’s what Memphis has taught me.