Fasting by Failing

In West Virginia, it’s possible to total your car not only by hitting a deer, but by stopping for a deer and having someone else hit it into you…

So after hitching a ride with the tow truck, I saw through the window of the body shop, a small Volkswagen for sale in my mechanic’s lot—literally across the street. Surely, this was a sign. It was the same year and model as my own now-deceased Rabbit.

There were two minor differences. It was white, so I named her Alice. (White Rabbit, c’mon, that’s funny.) And it was a manual transmission. I could learn to drive standard on my Christmas break from school, save us from having to car shop before the holiday, and be a cool person who knew how to do things like drive stick shift and buy cars.

I wish this story of fasting was about an inspirational journey I chose to get closer to the Father. Instead, it’s about how I fasted from the busyness of my life because I couldn’t drive where I wanted to go.

As it turned out, I had a spectacularly difficult time learning how to drive a car with a manual transmission. Friends would assure me I’d get the hang of it, then gush that I’d save money on gas. Uhm, I did, because I didn’t go anywhere!

While this was a trying and difficult season, it also came with three incredible benefits from the Father:

Letting Go

I like to know how to do things. I like to feel self-reliant, to help people. Losing the control I thought I had was humbling, to say the least. Though in the early months, I relied too heavily on my husband, as time went on I had a revelation. Since he works a rotating shift, I’ve always tried to knock out the daily errands to spare his days off. But I was taking on too much, and it wasn’t good for either of us. Turns out, he likes to feel self-reliant and to help people, too. Since he did nearly all of the grocery shopping for six months, I found out he was a fantastic shopper. He enjoyed it, too!


Getting my driver’s license was a pivotal passage into adulthood. To again feel like my heart was going to explode when I got into the car was…discouraging.

But it reminded me who I am. My value to the Father isn’t based on my skills. He doesn’t love me less when I fail. Repeated stalls at traffic lights might earn me rude gestures and condemnation from other drivers, but it didn’t change who I was. It did, however, cause me to extend more grace to other drivers—especially the elderly. I hope when they get in the car to run errands, their hearts don’t clench with fear the way mine did!

Renewed Determination

When I wasn’t spending my time zipping back and forth to town, I settled down and focused my attention on a big project at home—my blog. I’d had the domain name for two years, but was afraid to publish the first post! Spending all that time at home gave me plenty of time to think about my goals and decide what I really wanted.

I also finished and will soon publish my first book. Looking back, without major changes to my habits, I’m not sure I would’ve gotten it done. In fact, I may have rolled it into 2019’s New Year’s resolutions. It’s been on my bucket list for years. Without a quiet 2017, would I have been able to achieve my big goal?

Now, I’m still trying to get my shifts silky-smooth, but I’m able to go wherever I need. Instead of running to the grocery, bank, or post office, you’ll probably find me at home, typing away in my office. I bundle some errands into a single trip and skip others.

We’re ready to do some car shopping this year, and I’m sure our second car will be an automatic. (My husband is a saint, but no one has that much patience!) We’re keeping Alice. She’s precious, the obstacle that helped teach me a new skill and how to be more focused and determined. One of my greatest challenges became the most rewarding victory. By giving up the unnecessary, I could see what genuinely mattered most.

Have you ever given up a habit, and found treasure in the space that was left?


Grace & Such strives to advance Christian growth among women. While we believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, we also recognize human interpretations are imperfect. Grace & Such encourages our readers to open their Bibles, pray for wisdom and study for themselves what the Word says. For more about who we are, please visit the About Us page.
Cole Smith
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  1. Sarah Robinson on March 15, 2018 at 7:26 AM

    I’m so glad you are writing and publishing your work now, so I can hear your delightful voice more often. You took me back to being sixteen, with my older brother Phil (by eleven years) teaching me to drive his yellow, Ford Maverick in the parking lot of Wheeling Park.
    So excited, at first, until he gave me the tutorial: left foot on the clutch was doable, but a “three on the tree” shifter on the steering column? When he saw my total incomprehension, he tried another tactic.
    “Think of it as the letter H,” he said, “you’re in neutral at the cross bar…” Wait. Are we using an alphabet or tree analogy?
    But my learning curve at sixteen involved brands of mascara and wedge sandals, not grasping idiosyncrasies of a steering column!
    He was so patient with me, all the while that yellow Maverick hopped around the parking lot like a jack rabbit. Never did master standard transmission.
    Phil passed away several years ago, and those memories linger. And now that I’m a mature adult, I’d like to think I could do just about anything I made up my mind to do. Though I really appreciate my automatic.
    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Cole // Cole Smith Writes on March 15, 2018 at 12:57 PM

    Thank you, Sarah. What nice memories of Phil! I think if I’d had to learn standard as a fifteen year old, I might still be riding my bike everywhere… I stalled Alice just this morning, haha, can’t talk and shift at the same time, still.

  3. Jen on March 16, 2018 at 11:28 AM

    Looks like we were both homebound at about the same time, just for different reasons. 🙂

    I miss having a stickshift. Until I remember the challenges of hills and the exhaustion when you’re trying to drive in stop and go traffic. lol

    I’m thankful you used your stillness to such great advantage!

  4. Sandra Peasley Bush on March 21, 2018 at 9:29 PM

    I admire your determination to master the stick shift, Cole. My attempt to learn nearly ended in, divorce…before John and I were married! He tried so hard to be patient. I tried so hard to make it smoothly around the deserted parking lot. Time after time under my inept hand and lack of coordination, it sputtered and jerked to a stop. Finally, with the failure weighing heavily on my mind and John’s patience wearing thread bare, I decided to spend my life driving an automatic, thanking God as I zipped along, for its wondrous invention!

  5. Diane Tarantini on April 11, 2018 at 1:25 PM

    Great post, Cole. It reminds me of one of my favorite Michael Hyatt quotes. He says whenever something “bad” happens in his life, he ponders, “What does this make possible?” It’s a great practice to master: the making of lemonade from lemons. Sounds like you did that very thing.

    And folks, if you haven’t done so yet, I want to urge you to pick up a copy of Cole’s excellent first novel, “Waiting for Jacob.” I read it in a weekend and LOVED it. Here’s the link:

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