You are my vision
…I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple.
Isaiah 6:1 (NIV)
Over the years I have found the words of Be Thou My Vision to be among the most poignant and meaningful of Christian songs. It is a traditional hymn from Ireland, translated into English by Mary Byrne in 1905 and then in 1919 set to the music of the beautiful Irish folk tune Slane. But its origins go back much further, often being attributed to Saint Dallán Forgaill in the 6th century.
Recently I heard another version of the hymn by the Irish worship band Rend Collective, that has a different title You Are My Vision, and different wording. This version made me appreciate the hymn even more as it reveals an even deeper understanding of the relationship we have with God. I thought at first that this was just an updating of the early 20th century translation ‘Be thou my vision’ in order to make the language more accessible to a new generation. But the explanation for the ‘update’ given by band member Gareth Gilkeson is much more interesting as he explains:
As we translated the song from the Irish and the old English we soon realised the true meaning of the words were starting to get lost in our culture…This is not a song of longing and asking God to ‘be our vision’ but it is a song of declaration and faith…A confidence that we are his true sons and daughters and that He is dwelling inside us…While our culture moves faster than ever we want to remind people of our deep past as God’s people…and that is why instead of taking the…English version, which is only100 years old, we have gone back to the original Irish, which is 1,400 years older.1
As Gareth Gilkeson says, ‘this is a song of declaration and faith…’, the words declare our trust in our heavenly Father, our confidence that we are his sons and daughters. The Lord, high and exalted, seated on the throne is our vision. He is our battle-shield, our wisdom, our dignity, our delight, our souls’ shelter, and He dwells in us and together we are one. The good news is, because of the great saving work of Jesus, we don’t have to wish or hope that this may be so, this is the reality of our relationship with God through Christ.
You are my vision, O king of my heart…
You’re my great Father, and I’m Your true son
You dwell inside me, together we’re one
Father, You and You only are first in my heart. Whatever may befall me, still be my vision, oh ruler of all.
1Rend Collective Experiment offers new translation… – HM Magazine
Study by Barry Robinson
About the writer:
Barry Robinson is an Elder and part of the National Ministry Team directing Grace Communion International in the UK and Ireland. He is also a pastoral worker in the South of England, particularly the Camberwell and North London congregations of Grace Communion International.
Grace Communion International London
Mahatma Gandhi Hall
41 Fitzroy Square
Local Congregational Contact: