All In Good Time

 In Family, Fred's Blog, Fred's Blog, Inheritance, Money, People, Teaching, Transitions, Trust
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.

Now, in my 70’s, it is what Erik Erikson named “the period of generativity” and John Gardner wrote about as the challenge of self-renewal.  What is the best use of all that has been placed in my life?

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.

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Showing 12 comments
  • Avatar
    sam
    Reply

    Our decades of life are, or should be, different, as we should be growing and changing. And so we need, at each stage of life, to ever be ready to grow and to accept the new opportunities that GOD provides.
    There is no retirement in the Bible; andlike Caleb, even at 80, we must be eager to go for GOD’s best Calling for our lives at each stage.
    GOD is sprinkling His Grace and blessings over us, and yet too often have our “umbrellas” over our heads to “protect” us from GOD’s showers of blessings. And so our promising lives grow cold and diminished.
    Great thoughtful essay, Fred.
    Sam
    Micah 6:8

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Sam – You have a way with words! I love thinking about opportunities.

  • Avatar
    Corbyn
    Reply

    Thank you for this post Fred. It leaves me with a desire to practice presence in each moment and season. It also encourages me to reflect back on the gifts that have already been given to me and to consider (and wonder) how God might use them/me in the future.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Corbyn. This is encouraging. I am hoping for more gifts!

  • Avatar
    Howard
    Reply

    As I like to say, we are all “trustafarians” to God.

  • Avatar
    Smith Noland
    Reply

    Fred, thanks for this perspective. I have often told students in psychology classes when we are discussing Erikson’s theory that generativity is about seeing in perspective how all of the pieces have fit together to bring me to this place. Although I am not clear about several of the chapters of my own experience, I am clear about those being necessary to my growth. As W. Berry reminds us, “often I have not known where I was going until I was already there” … “My life has come to me or I have gone to it mainly by way of mistakes and suprises”. We would not have managed any of it, joy or struggle, in one large dose.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Normally, I am intimidated when someone has read (or taught)someone I quote! You cannot go wrong with Wendell Berry.

  • Avatar
    John Sims
    Reply

    Well put, Fred. “To everything there is a season.” Keep the wise reflections coming.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, John. I could not agree more. This is a good season.

  • Avatar
    Lisa
    Reply

    I loved the podcast format!

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Good! I think others feel the same. It seems to be more personal.

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