As much meaning as it has for me, as I sat next to her watching the movie for the first time, I remembered someone else for whom this film was, and likely will always be, more special: Martha.
You see before a single location is scouted, line read at a table reading, or extra cast, there's Martha--- possibly sitting at her kitchen table or somewhere else---preparing to write. Before a single word hits the page she prays over the process she's about to undertake and the path required to take it. It's an act of faith perhaps far greater than that which her characters will attempt to make throughout the course of their stories. And yet she has taken that leap an innumerable amount of times all in the name of God first, then for Oliver, Shane, Rita and Norman.
I can only imagine that Higher Ground was particularly challenging to develop. Perspective reminds us that when Martha sat down to craft this masterpiece, she did so without knowledge of what the future held for the show, and in turn, her characters. It was with that very present reality that Martha pieced together Higher Ground, weaving in at least one reference to every preceding film. In a world where this could have been the last installment, Martha---through her writing---was, in a sense, the first to tell them "goodbye," while finding genuine and heartfelt ways to push the POstables towards their bright futures.
And who can forget that off-screen first kiss between Shane and Oliver. For everyone who correctly identified that as a nod to "An Affair To Remember"---you were spot on. It's one of her favorite films of all time, and, if you can believe it, that moment between Shane and Oliver was actually conceived of much differently. It was an act of divine intervention that turned it into that beautifully orchestrated moment that you're still fast-fowarding or rewinding to.
But one of the easiest things to forget as we cry or rejoice over Higher Ground is that Martha (and probably Brandi, her writing partner) cried and rejoiced over it first. I got a sense of this as we watched it together for the first time. There were still scenes and moments she was reacting to, even as she was trying to watch and see how I reacted to them for the first time. I was in tears at every emotional twist and turn as the sobering reality set in that a chapter was, indeed, inevitably closing right in front of my eyes, knowing full well that three more movies were actually on the horizon. Somehow hurt lingered beneath the joy. How much more must it have conflicted everyone charged with making Higher Ground come to life? I literally walked around in circles in my hotel room later that night pondering the thought and processing what I had just seen.
She didn't know it, but Martha created in me a much deeper respect for her process that weekend. It was one thing to watch it all come to life on set, but it's definitely another to realize the impact, the ripple effect of one person, who listened to God and started to write.
For anyone wondering what the point of this post was, it was a moment to reflect and thank Martha for "listening" and to let her know that we're listening, too, and will continue to do so. As the Living Letters series reminds us, there's always a difference to be made.
With Joy & Sincere Gratitude,