Amy, I don't think I knew you were in seminary! Me, too. :) Also on the 10+ year plan. (By the time I get to the end of my program, I'll probably have to retake a bunch of classes because they were too far back in history. Who am I kidding? I'll be in school forever at this rate.) :)
So I was going to share this when I finally got around to emailing Julie to say "hey, can I be an official emerging woman?" but since I haven't done that yet and the topic's at hand - here's the story (short version) of how I became "Happy":
It was probably about 5 years ago now - I had just joined the worship team at a new church, and it was as though a part of me that had been sleeping for a really long time had been given new life. I love to sing, and I love to worship (they are two different things, tho I had yet to learn that). About two months after I joined the team, I went to the doctor with an earache, and it turned out I had an ear infection so bad it was initially misdiagnosed as a cholesteotoma, which is a tumor that can grow on the inside of your eardrum. Needless to say, I freaked out. I was sent to a specialist, who quickly assured me that it wasn't a tumor, just an extremely bad infection, but it had ruptured my eardrum, and there was no way to tell yet how much damage had been done. It was three months before that infection, another one in my other ear, and several other fun infections (as a result of all the antibiotics) were finally cleared up, and during that time I was in a lot of pain. The thing about an ear infection is that it's inside your head - it hurts like crazy, you can't touch it or do anything about it, you can't eat, you can't yawn, you can't sleep, and it never lets up. I had a lot of people praying for me, and some good doctors doing their best, but it just wasn't healing, and I was terrified on top of it all that I'd lose my hearing and not be able to sing anymore.
During this time, our worship leader introduced delirious' "Happy Song" at church - you know the one:
"I could sing unending songs of how you saved my soul" - and "everybody's singing now 'cause we're so happy" - it's all fun and country and makes you want to dance - except that it didn't make me want to dance, it made me MAD. I didn't feel like I could sing it with any kind of authenticity at all because I wasn't happy, I was miserable, and I was seriously ticked off at God for not making me well when I knew He could, and for allowing me to go through this pain and fear and uncertainty.
A couple weeks later I was driving through town and felt compelled to stop at a Catholic church I'd been to a few times and go to Saturday night mass. I went in, and THEY sang a song about being happy, too - and I just hit the roof internally. I drove home and pretty much just blew up at God about the whole thing, and yelled in His direction, "What IS it with this happiness thing?!?!"
Then I walked into my closet and pulled out my dictionary and looked up the word happy, and you know what I found out? According to the older dictionary I had on hand - happiness doesn't have to be an emotion. The emotion of happiness was third in the list; the first definition of happiness is to be favored by circumstance.
I looked up and I said, "WHAT is favorable about my circumstances, God? This SUCKS." (I suspect I probably went on at great length as to how and why.) And God spoke to my heart more clearly than I had ever heard Him before. He told me that I am ALWAYS favored by the circumstances of His love for me, REGARDLESS of what else is going on in my life.
And something in me, in that moment, changed. I still didn't know if God would heal me, or if I'd be able to hear or sing again - but it didn't matter any more, because God loved me. And that was enough.
And as I shared that story with our worship leader and some people in the band, it started to be kind of a joke - they started asking me if I was technically happy or emotionally happy. :) And our worship leader started calling me Happy, and pretty soon it just stuck.
And I have to say that I've found it to be pretty redemptive. Every time someone says, "Hey, Hap!" I get to remember.