Dr.Dr. Wolfgang Reichelt
Dr.Dr. Wolfgang Reichelt
Klagenfurt/ Austria

You have to forgive first, then I can help you

I have an education as a natural scientist and as a lawyer. I always wanted to work in environmental protection and got a job as an environmental lawyer in a government. However, I soon felt uncomfortable at my job. For one thing, I didn't get along well with my boss, and for another, I realised in the course of my work that, regardless of my legal training, I had always remained a natural scientist at heart. I would have liked to change to a job where I could work less as a lawyer and more as a scientist.

I did not succeed in making this change and it seemed impossible. My boss had not the slightest interest in letting me leave. Because of my double education, I was useful to him and because he was influential, he always knew how to prevent a change of my job within the government. Leaving government and looking for a job somewhere else was not something I wanted either for a number of important reasons. So I had to endure what was for me a very unsatisfactory situation, with no hope of changing anything.

Five years after I started working, I took part in a faith course in the mid-1980s. It made me realise that God respects our human freedom and all of its consequences. He wants to help, guide and protect us, but he cannot do so as long as we want to do and decide everything ourselves and do not give him the place in our lives that he deserves. We were invited at the end of this seminar to put our lives into God's hands, everything, without holding anything back. This would be the prerequisite for us to experience God's work in our lives.

The thought of taking such a step caused me great concern. What if God really wants to intervene in my life, but leads me down paths that I would never voluntarily take?  After all, this leap into the hands of God was going to affect all areas of my life: my family, my relationships, my health, but also my career, which I was worried about because, despite all of my efforts, no changes had been possible in my job for years.

Nevertheless, I decided to take this leap into the unknown and gave my life to God.

God's response was swift and in a way I could never have dreamed.

At that time, I had to conduct proceedings as a lawyer in an environmental case before the Supreme Court in Austria. My boss had changed my documents, which I had sent to the court, in one essential point without my knowledge. A short time after I had accepted God as the Lord of my life, the Court's judgement was sent to us. - We had lost that case, precisely because of the passage that my boss had inserted in the so-called "rebuttal" to the Court instead of my original submission.

That was bad enough, but it was made worse by the fact that my boss was now announcing everywhere that we had lost this case because of a serious mistake on my part and that he was very angry with me for that. What my boss did not know was that I had kept a copy of my original submission. In addition, my secretary had given me a copy of that passage, which showed that the alterations that my boss had made to the text were handwritten.

I now had proof in my hand that it was not my mistake at all but my boss's mistake that had caused us to lose the environmental case. I was now thinking about how I could target this information to different parts of the government. I wanted to expose this slander because I feared it could be very detrimental to my career.

But before I could do that, I had a very strong impulse during prayer that I should also pray the "Our Father" for my boss. I resisted inwardly, knowing that I could not pray the passage "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us" in a sincere way. No, I didn't want to give my boss the opportunity to get off so easily. I believed that he deserved to have the fact of his slander exposed. I therefore felt unable to pray the "Our Father" for my boss, his behaviour hurt me too much.

But God did not let up. I suddenly had the sense that he was saying to me: "Why did you hand over your life to me if you won't allow me to do something for you? I want you to forgive your boss!"

This very clear impulse caused me a great inner struggle. Finally, I prayed for my boss and was also ready to forgive him for his behaviour.

I did not tell anyone about what had happened and I made an effort to be open with my boss without bitterness, as if he had never slandered me. I actually managed to look him calmly in the eye every time I met him. Then something happened that I could never have foreseen. My so dominant boss became more and more insecure towards me, he started avoiding me and my gaze. One day he called me into his office and asked me abruptly: "Don't you have any anger towards me at all!!?" Of course, it was obvious that I knew the context that he was refering to regarding the defeat in the Court. However, my boss could not handle my reaction to his behaviour and wanted to question it.  I managed to answer him calmly: "Actually, I should be angry with you because you are saying everywhere that it was my fault that we lost the trial. But I try to live as a Christian. When I pray the 'Our Father', I realise every time that we must forgive each other, even for such wrongs as you did to me. I have decided to pray for you".

My boss was stunned. From that day on, he avoided me whenever he could, I had become scary to him. He, who never wanted me to leave his department, would now have prefered it if I simply disappeared.

If I had not forgiven him but made his behaviour public, it would have damaged his image. But he would have made me feel even more strongly every day that he was still the boss and that I had to submit to him. Because I forgave, God opened a door for me that I would never have been able to open on my own.

What I didn't realise at that time was that there was a second closed door which was preventing my transfer to the other department, which I knew nothing about. God opened this door for me too.

A short time after this incident, the government's personnel manager called me. He actually wanted to ask my supervisor something, but hadn't reached him and that's why he called me. Usually, a normal employee in the government had no chance at all to get in touch with the top boss, all contacts to the top of the hierarchy had to go through one's own superior. I had therefore not had the chance to talk to the personnel manager in person once in the last four years.

After I had given the HR manager the information he needed, I took advantage of this unexpected opportunity and asked him why my requests for transfer to the specialist department had never been answered. He reacted with surprise and asked me why I wanted to change to a department where nobody wanted me. He then told me that it had been brought to his attention that I was a very argumentative and uncooperative person. Everyone in the department would be happy if I stayed in my current position and didn't cause any trouble. After all, my current boss had me well under control.

I was horrified.

In reality I had got on very well with most of my colleagues in this other department and had worked with them many times. However, a circumstance that had long been forgotten by me was then uncovered and clarified in a subsequent conversation: I had once met a man as a student and caught him in an unpleasant and embarrassing act. This man worked in the department that I wanted to move to. He was also a friend of my boss. This man had obviously not forgotten the embarrassing situation from the past and had tried by all means to prevent me from joining his department. So infact it was not the whole department that had spoken out against my move but a single person who had deliberately slandered me.

Two days later, to my great surprise, I received the letter of transfer to the specialist department.

I had been trying in vain for four years to change jobs. God had opened two doors for me in a very short time, which I would never have been able to open on my own, after I had handed my life over to Him with complete trust.