North of Antibes and west of Nice is a hilltop village known as Saint Paul de Vence. It is an absolutely charming place that has been a haven for artists like Matisse, Miro, Picasso and Chagall.
In fact, Chagall was buried in a picturesque cemetery located at the very end of the town’s main footpath. It is not hard to imagine how painters could naturally derive creative inspiration from this location in the beautiful Alpes-Maritime area of the region of Provence. Even today, the narrow cobblestone footpaths are lined with boutiques selling various forms of art. One doesn’t mind getting lost in this mesmerizing labyrinth where medieval charm and timeless artistry co-exist.
At the threshold of this village, there is an establishment called La Colombe d’Or (Golden Dove), which opened in the 1920’s, first as a café, then later as a small hotel.
In its early days, there were times when guests could not fully pay for their food or lodging. Many of these guests were aspiring painters, and in those instances, the owners would accept a drawing or painting as payment. As the years went by, more than a few of these artists actually became successful. They gained recognition and their works accrued value. Decades later, and with the passing of these famous painters, the walls of La Colombe d’Or evolved into collages of highly priced masterpieces. The once ordinary artworks that those cash-strapped guests gave in exchange for accommodations are now valued more than the hotel itself. If I were to point to a painting in the reception hall and ask the manager “Combien ca coute?” (how much is it), I’m sure the he would say, “It’s not for sale, Madame.” (And he would probably be thinking, “No way, crazy tourist!!!”)
I am not an art connoisseur. In fact, I only know a few important names in the field. I vaguely understand how art is appraised but I’m quite certain it has a lot to do with the artist who created it. Although my eyes may be initially drawn to a painting’s content, composition and other aesthetic details that I find attractive, I realize that it is the signature in that one corner that primarily determines the value of what I’m enjoying.
What is value? Oxford Dictionary defines value as how much something is worth. How much are we willing to pay for something we value? How much are we willing to sacrifice for someone we love? We may not all be appraisers of art but whether we realize it or not, our daily decisions and actions, our joys and struggles in life, are totally influenced by our ongoing assessment of value and worth within us and around us. In a way, we are always asking ourselves, “Combien ca coute?”
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16
On Calvary, that first Good Friday, Christ showed us how much we are loved and valued. He bore the penalty that should have been ours, and paid the ultimate price for our salvation.
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to his grace Eph 1:7
If you have been a Christian for a long time, I’d encourage you to ask the Holy Spirit to not allow this precious truth to become too familiar, like a painting you’ve seen so many times such that you’ve lost interest in it. Open the pages of God’s Word and pray. Come closer to the Master and see His signature in this loving work of redemption. Do not let this be just another holiday. Seek solitude, reflect and linger, as there is so much more to be amazed at. Though Christ’s work on the cross is finished, the Author and Perfector of our faith is very much still at work. Let us ascribe greatness to Him, whose work is perfect, whose ways are just (Deut 32:3-4). The hands that created us, the hands that were crucified for us, the hands that are now molding us into the image of Christ, can and will hold us securely forever in awe of Him. Let us remain in the shadow of the Cross where grace is inexhaustible. There are always deeper alcoves of intimacy to which He invites us.
If you have never given your life to Jesus, please do not hesitate any longer. The timing could not be better as His people, flawed as we are, prepare to celebrate the One event that makes all the difference both in this life and beyond. Jesus’ death and resurrection has everything to do with God’s immeasurable love for you and for the world. Turn the eyes of your heart to Jesus. No matter what your past has been, it is in Him and only in Him that every human being finds eternal value. He invites you to taste and see for yourself how through His love and grace, our lives of worthless scribbles and sketches find meaning and purpose. He creates in us a new heart and He signs His name by giving us His Holy Spirit as a stamp of ownership. It is His own declaration that we belong to Him and therefore we are valued; not because of what we’ve done, not because of any inherent beauty or righteousness in us, not because of anything we have, but simply because of who He is. It is His signature that matters.
I have been walking with Jesus for many years, and even though I fail many times, His grace never does. I am not perfect at all but I am also not the same person that I was years ago, because He is faithful and wise in using whatever is best to refine my heart and character. And when anything or anyone (including the devil) tries to rob me of my identity, or purchase my greatest affection and asks “Combien ca coute?” My Lord and Savior himself will reply, “No way! She is mine.”
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Gal 2:20
And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love, how can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
No condemnation now I dread
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head
And clothed in righteousness divine
Bold I approach the eternal throne
And claim the crown, through Christ my own
Amazing love, how can it be, that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
By Charles Wesley (1738)