When trouble threatens, the best thing to do is head for higher ground. That’s a solid, scriptural truth. But I didn’t learn it first from the Bible. I figured it out at my grandmother’s house when I was a little girl trying to escape my great uncle Willard’s hugs.

Dear old Uncle Willard hugged like a python. Bless his heart, he meant well. But, as a lumber-jack of a man who spent his days clearing Oklahoma oak thickets with an axe, he didn’t know his own strength. (And since he showered only on occasion and in warm weather, he was strong in more ways than one.)

When Uncle Willard barreled toward me, ham-hock arms extended, ready to engulf me in the suffocating expanse of his enormous, plaid-flannelled chest, even as a five year-old I figured out there was only one way to escape. Go higher. So I headed for the attic.

I ran with knobby knees pumping to my grandmother’s laundry room, stood on tiptoe, and grabbed the knotted rope that dangled from the ceiling. Giving it a yank, I lowered a spindly ladder, and climbed to a higher place.

Oh, how I loved that higher place!

Paneled in knotty pine with angled walls that made it cozy as a pup tent, with two chenille-covered beds, an ancient radio the size of a refrigerator, and boxes bulging with my cousins’ castaway toys, my grandmother’s attic room was heaven to me. Up there, I wasn’t small anymore. Or helpless. I was above.

Pulling up the ladder behind me, I would smirk with satisfaction that no one below could reach me. Peering through the gaps around the attic door, I’d smile down at the top of my uncle’s balding head as he stood at the laundry room sink scrubbing the workday grime from his hands. From that vantage point, I could see him as he truly was. No threat, really. Just good old Uncle Willard.

Of course, it’s been years since then. These days, Uncle Willard is barreling around heaven instead of Oklahoma (still in plaid flannel, no doubt, and hugging everybody in sight). My grandmother’s house has been sold and renovated beyond recognition.

And yet, after all these years, I still have an attic room. I still have higher place to head for when trouble threatens.

Jesus built it for me. (Didn’t He say, “I go to prepare a place for you?”) He bought a ladder for it with His own blood. And just by praising Him and thanking Him for that blood, I can ascend into it whenever I want. Just by reaching up and grabbing the scarlet cord of the Word that says I’ve been quickened together with Christ, raised up and seated together with Him in the heavenlies, I can escape to that higher place.

Once there—far above all principalities and powers, might and dominion and every name that can be named—things that once loomed big (as big as Uncle Willard and much more sinister) look small. Problems that engulfed me in a python squeeze lose their power. I can laugh at them and take authority over them because I am in Christ and they are under His feet.

Up in my attic room with Jesus, life is good no matter what is happening below.