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Long Path to Calling and Gratitude

By Brian Allain

Vocation, according to Frederick Buechner: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

In my role as Director of the Frederick Buechner Center, I have had a front-row seat to witness how powerfully Mr. Buechner’s words have impacted millions of people. His most popular quote is without doubt his definition of “vocation.”

My personal journey to find my true vocation took decades. I began my career as an engineer at Bell Laboratories(!!). I worked in many different communication technology businesses, both large and small, and enjoyed them immensely. Twice in my life I considered going into the ministry, but in both cases I concluded it was not the best fit for my skill set. I think I could come up with a grand total of one good sermon in my entire life…

Then what fell in my lap was the opportunity to establish and lead the Frederick Buechner Center. I didn’t go looking for it. I didn’t apply for the job. It found me. What an amazing blessing!

Since last year I have expanded my scope to work with many additional Christian writers, some very well-known and others just getting started. Why did I decide to do this? Many writers struggle with the business and marketing side of being an author – now an increasingly important ingredient to their success.  My skills in those areas are a wonderful complement to their writing gifts. This is now my ministry. It’s not exactly your typical parish pastor, but it is my opportunity to give back.

All of this has allowed me to enter an entirely new phase of my life – my second career; my vocation. 

And it is why I now feel so grateful:

  • I am empowered to use the gifts God gave me to help other people.
  • This new ministry, this new opportunity to give back, is extremely fulfilling for me.
  • For the first time, my business and my faith are combined.
  • For the first time, I own my own business, with the flexibility that provides.
  • Not to mention that I get to work with a ton of great people!
  • Not to mention that I feel as though I am serving God in my own humble way…

Being grateful drives another feeling – the desire to give back. Because I’ve been so blessed by God, I want to “pay it forward” as much as possible.  But running a business means that one needs to make money – or at least not lose money! So I have an ongoing internal struggle around the topic of profitability.  How much do I charge for this conference or that service? What is the risk that it loses money? How much should I care about that? But then I keep going back to some great business advice I’ve heard several times:

“Provide value with the expectation that you’ll never re­ceive anything in return. Serve your audience with your arms wide open, not with a hand extended.” – Shawn Van Dyke, construction industry consultant (from Known by Mark Schaefer)

How do I know if I am on the right path? I have and will continue to make mistakes, just like anyone else.  But when so many attendees of my spiritual writers’ conferences tell me how great an experience it was for them; when 100% of the feedback survey respondents rate the conference as Above Average or Outstanding (71%), then you know that something must be going right. You know you have been blessed…

All I can say is THANK YOU GOD!

Brian Allain serves as Founding Director of the Frederick Buechner Center and owner of Writing for Your Life, a resource center for spiritual writers.

Posted November 1, 2017

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