All In Good Time
Listen to “All In Good Time.”
It’s a familiar scene made even more so by movies and novels: the reading of the last will and testament. The somber family is seated quietly around the table in the law office. The attorney reaches down into his briefcase and pulls out the file. He puts on his glasses, clears his throat and starts slowly reading the wishes of the deceased. Of course, in the back of every mind is the obvious question, “How much did he leave me?” It’s not unnatural or even greedy. It’s perfectly normal behavior. Everyone has some vague notion or hope, and then the attorney says, “Your father left a sprinkling trust” and closes the file.
What in the world is a “sprinkling trust?” Whoever heard of such a thing? What does that mean for all of us?
Well, as many attorneys and financial professionals reading this know, a sprinkling trust is an instrument that allows the trustee of the estate to have broad latitude in how the assets of the estate are gifted. They have the power to decide how funds will be distributed to inheritors.
Instead of a lump sum settlement, this trust allows the trustee to use their discretion about when inheritors are most ready to receive funds or when there is a special need. They can either set up a fixed schedule of gifts based on age or simply use their judgment about when to make the gifts.
I’ve been thinking a good deal about how the image of “heir” and “inheritor” is used in Scripture. Many of us have in our minds the lump sum image, I believe. Male heirs in the Old Testament received the entire estate when their father died. It was not parceled out to them. It was pretty much a zero-sum game. All or nothing at all.
However, as I have thought about my life and others, it has been more like a sprinkling trust than a lump sum.
When I was young, God gave me experiences of travel and adventure that have been the platform for much of what I have done later in life. It was not only the adventure but the realization that taking the opportunities to be with diverse sorts of people and enduring discomfort was a gift.
In my mid-30s, I had the gift of hard work in sometimes difficult circumstances.
In my mid-40s, it was the gift of being allowed to build a network of relationships and exposure to people, ideas and organizations that I could never have done on my own.
In my 50s and early 60s, it was international travel and connecting the dots through the growth of The Gathering.
I could not have received these as a “lump sum.” They had to be distributed over the course of my life. It’s not that I necessarily would have misspent or squandered them. I simply would not have known how to invest and use them all at once.
Maybe the same is true for you? Things have come in stages and God’s “sprinkling trust” in your life has not only made it possible for you to grow but each gift has prepared you for the next.
It’s easy – but mistaken – to assume all the gifts have been distributed by now and the challenge is simply to conserve and protect. No, there is always the next gift. That doesn’t require making a change or going in a different direction. It just means I am thinking about what all these gifts along the way have prepared me for next. It means being grateful for the wisdom of sprinkling these gifts over a lifetime.