Thursday, April 10, 2014



 The Background

In pursuit of my Master of Arts in Missions in 1997, I was required to do a 6-month mission trip to Germany. Having been to Germany before, I realized that when I listened to something being sung in German, it took me a bit longer to understand it rather than when it was spoken. Now, I haven't done any research into this, but something tells me (at least in my case) that music is processed in a totally different way with our brains than spoken language is.

One of my real pleasures about visiting any new culture was also experiencing their music. In church, however, I quickly realized to my disappointment that there were way too many songs translated from English into German and fewer German ones at all. In the German edition of The Salvation Army Song Book, there are only 3 songs composed in German that were written in the 20th Century. In other traditions, especially with the Praise and Worship music (Lobpreismusik), there were several songs translated from English to German. There were even some denominations I knew who preferred singing in English rather than German for various reasons.

  • It takes a shorter amount of time to say something in English than in German. (Perfect example:  "Matchbox" in German is "Streichholzschachtel.")
  • Many of the songs were difficult to translate into German or sounded a bit off.
  • Some Germans felt that their language is unlovely. (I reject such notion outright.)
I even had some pastors who had to insist that at least one third of the songs sung were songs in German.

 The Song

I sang in a worship band in Hamburg with The Salvation Army's Mission Team. Occasionally we would find a song that I really enjoyed that was also originally written in German. One of these was entitled "Vater ich komme jetzt zu dir."

Here are the words in German:
Vater, ich komme jetzt zu dir
Als dein Kind lauf ich in deine Arme.
Ich bin geborgen, du stehst zu mir, lieber Vater.

Vater, bei dir bin ich zu Hause.
Vater, bei dir berge ich mich.
Vater, bei dir finde ich Ruhe.
O, mein Vater, ich liebe dich.

Vater, du gibst mir, was ich brauch'.
Du empfängst mich mit offenen Armen.
Du füllst all' meine Sehnsucht aus, lieber Vater.


Before I come to the translation, I got stuck on a word:  "geborgen". In this case it's an adjective. The verb form of that you can see in the refrain: "berge". The noun version of this word is the title of this blog:  "Geborgenheit". I have found that this word is nearly untranslatable.  Dutch and Afrikaans have a similar word in their language, but in English, this is nearly impossible to translate. We have to use several words to translate it.

Which words?

Security, protection, invulnerability, closeness, warmth, quiet, peace. It has the idea of being surrounded and buried in love. I became fascinated with this concept and this word! If you are familiar with with Gary Chapman's book, Five Love Languages, you will know that there are 5 types of languages of love that we identify with most readily.  They are:  Giving Gifts, Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. For me, my love language is Physical Touch. So this beautiful image of being surrounded, buried, and encompassed by a loving God appealed to me like no other.

So here is my feeble attempt at translating this beautiful song (but not to be sung to). The words in bold are my translation of "geborgen" and "berge":

Father, I am coming right now to you.
Like a child I run into your arms.
I am warm and secure.
You stand at my side, dear Father.

Father with you I am home.
Father with you I am safe and sound.
Father with you I find quiet.
O, my Father, I love you.

Father you give me what I need.
You receive me with open arms.
You fulfill all of my deep desires, dear Father!

 I couldn't use just one word to translate "geborgen". It's simply impossible.

My loving God, in whom I am geborgen

Our Creator is a loving God in whom we have a very special relationship. We can also be "geborgen" in him. He calls out to us as our Father. He seeks to draw us nearer to him. When Israel was disciplined by God for their idolatry and sent off into exile under the Babylonians, he still had not forgotten Israel. They were far off, but God said to Israel,

The Lord appeared to him from afar, saying,
“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.
- Jeremiah 31:3 (NASB)

God calls out to us today! Do you hear him? Do you hear his love for us? 

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