Baseball pundits will be quick to say that you cannot win a World Series in April, but you can certainly lose one. Getting off to a bad start can have crippling effects, even in something as long as a 162-game season. In much shorter competitions, like a 100 meter sprint, a bad start is impossible to overcome. That is exactly the premise that Farrar has in his book, that a bad start is hard to overcome. Age 30 is significant for him, because “for the first 20 years of your life, your parents make the major decisions for you. From twenty on out, you will be making the decisions. The quality of your decisions will determine what your life will look like at thirty.” This is the mark of adulthood, you own your decisions and the consequences of them. And as a young person transitions into adulthood, passing through different stages leads to greater decisions and greater responsibility.
Farrar has nine common mistakes that he believes can shipwreck a life before age 30: Overlook the law of cause and effect, Get off to a bad start, Ignore God’s purpose for your life, Refuse to take responsibility for your actions, Neglect your gifts and strengths when choosing a vocation, Disregard what the Bible says about sex and marriage, Stop learning, Isolate yourself, and Refuse daily wisdom. The great news is that each of these can be fixed before a life becomes a tragic waste, but they are essential in the early stages of adulthood because of their long-term ripple effects.
Perhaps the most pointed chapter he has is chapter 6, which focuses on disregarding what the Bible says about sex and marriage. Marriage is hard work, but it is a lifetime commitment. As the divorce rate stays high, even among Christians, Farrar says “the reason Christian couples get divorced is that someone in the marriage didn’t burn the ships…. commitment has been redefined to mean they will stay in the relationships as long as it’s personally convenient.” To help young Christians make wise decisions for marriage, he offers four rules: 1) Married for life, 2) Hands to yourself (sexual purity before marriage), 3) Don’t act cheap, and 4) Christians only marry other Christians. In keeping with his long-range perspective, he also wants to challenge the common question young adults ask. Instead of “who am I going to marry?” he wants the first question to be “What kind of marriage do I want to have?” For Farrar, twenty years down the road needs to be the focal point, not the impulse for instant happiness.
In a culture that embraces YOLO (You Only Live Once) as its mantra, Farrar’s words come as a stark, but very wise and timely contrast. He ends the book by pleading with his young readers to go to the wellspring of Proverbs every day. Rather than live out YOLO and do what Drake says “forget what anybody says” and chase after the pursuit of pleasure, money, sex, and no consequences, Farrar sees one life with a 200 year ripple effect. He gives the example of Os Guinness’ great great-grandmother, who nearly committed suicide and leave two young children to an orphan’s life. Instead she made the adult decision to press on, found forgiveness and restoration in Christ, and married well.
Youth pastors, put this book in the hands of your graduating seniors, and challenge them to make wise decisions as they move into adulthood. Their choices in the 10 years after high school will have ripple effects for decades. This book is worth taking the time to read, consider, and apply – because by God’s grace we hope to see lives transformed by the Gospel and the pursuit of wisdom.