Posted by: pmarkrobb | June 21, 2013

lost in translation

I have learned in my journey with God, to ask for things and then put all my senses on high alert, expecting that an answer might come from the unlikeliest of places. This happened the other day, while looking for some music to accompany a narrated video I will be doing soon. It would be too difficult to weave the details of the back story in this concise space, but suffice it to say God was in the finding of a song titled, “Hægt, kemur ljósið” by an Icelandic artist named Ólafur Arnalds.

I love the layers of intention and purpose in the created world and God’s fingerprints in the people, places and things of our lives. So I often dig below the surface when things happen like finding the perfect song by an Icelandic artist. I dig to see if there are additional “layers” of intention and purpose. The title of the song intrigued me, and I used an online translation site to help me determine it’s meaning. I typed out the first word “haegt” and hit <Enter>. The English translation was “one can.” I continued with the second word “kemur”, and it translated “comes.” Finally, “ljosio.” That translation returned an unexpected result … “ljosio.” “Huh? That certainly doesn’t look like any English word I am familiar with.”

That’s when I noticed the special native language markers on several of the letters.  To include them, I decided to cut and paste the word directly from the song title into the translator tool. With the proper language markings, the word translated as “light.” Put all three separate translations together and I’ll have my title! Ok, “one can”, then “comes”, then “light.” … “One can, comes light.” What is that?! It doesn’t make any sense!

After a minute of staring at the combination of words that lay in front of me, I decided to try something different. I typed all three words in the translation field, in contrast to the single word approach I began with. I typed “haegt kemur ” in front of the “ljósið” that was already there. This time it translated as, “possible, there is light.” OK, that makes a bit more sense. Still not completely clear, but sometimes things get a little skewed in translating from one language to another. After another minute or so of sitting with those words, I noticed something from the original song title; something that’s barely recognizable, but makes all the difference in the world. There was a comma after the first word in the title that I didn’t notice until that moment. So I added the comma in the appropriate place and hit the translate button one more time … this time it showed, “Slowly, comes the light.”

At the end of my translating “journey”, a deeper truth began resonating within me. Isn’t this also a picture of what we can do with scripture? Sometimes we consume or consider single verses all by themselves or as individual parts of a larger story, and they end up translating as something that reads, “one can, comes light.” Sometimes we read a passage or story narrative and don’t consider the cultural context or historical time period, and it translates to something that reads like, “possible, there is light.” Sometimes we apply our own wisdom, or ignore God’s special markings, and read just letters, words, verses, chapters or whole books and it translates to “ljosio” — something that doesn’t mean anything in any language, ours or His. However, when we read it right, when we consider the entire context and all of the words together, when we ask Him for wisdom in discerning His special markings … it translates to something that reads, “Slowly, comes the light.”

Think of the story of Jesus making a violent mess of the temple. How does that translate to someone who doesn’t know what a den of illicit commerce greedy people and religious leaders had made out of His Father’s house of prayer? And how does that scene translate absent the critical, yet so often overlooked words of Mark 11:11 that tell us how Jesus visited the temple the afternoon before to really experience and observe what it had become. Consider the “Last Supper” being translated without knowing the story of the exodus of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. Wouldn’t Calvary look so tragic and hopeless if you stopped with Jesus still on the cross?

“One can, comes light.” It’s still a great song, but it makes no sense with that title. When you include all the words together, include the special markings and critical punctuation, the resulting translation shows the title to be the perfect companion to the song. “Slowly, comes the light.”

I’d encourage you to take a few minutes and listen to the song and tell me if you can do more than just hear the music. Do any of your other senses become engaged?


God answered my simple desire in a way that drew me closer to Him. He gave me the song I was looking for, and I saw Him more clearly through the process of finding it. I’d encourage you to ask God for things, and then put your senses on high alert. Dig below the surface in search of additional layers of His intention and purpose. Read scripture, being careful to consume it in a way that allows you to see Jesus’ righteous and measured cleansing of the temple, His taking the central elements of the sacred meal and making them new in Himself, the Savior of the world dying as the perfect and only Passover lamb, but then rising on the third day as He said. Don’t allow the greatest love story of all time to get lost in translation.



  1. My Brother,

    I cannot put into words the feelings and emotions that build up inside as I become entrenched in this song. I found an animated video of this song that I would like to share:

    Thank you for bringing this to LIGHT!

    Love ya,

  2. Very good post Mark …. I love the song that you’ve shared and the You Tube video that brother Scott found. Thanks Guys 🌅

  3. Very beautiful , calming and .moving…..thank you

  4. Mark as a non-religious person who has found deep meaning in this song I was wondering if you’ve ever considered that god did not play a roll in your realization. I grew up religious and I never took scripture stories literally due to their often egregious nature (Revelations specifically). Id imagine that if you had asked for something good to happen and something did not you would assume God was sending you a message by not delivering what you asked for but if something did happen than you would attribute it to God assisting you. Either way your belief in a higher power is strengthened. This mind set, in my eyes, perpetuates a word view where we are not in control of our own destiny. I mean no disrespect as we are all entitled to our beliefs. I only seek to learn from others who view the world differently from myself.

  5. […] […]

  6. I found this post because I love the song Hægt, kemur ljósið and composer Ólafur Arnalds. As a fellow Christian your insights have added even more depth to the song. Thank you. I also love how the title reflects the journey you went on to discover the meaning of the title. That’s not a coincidence.

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