Derek Gaubatz, Bill’s younger son, sent me the eulogy that he read at the service, and asked me to post it [warning, NSFA (Not Safe For Anti-Christians)]
My dad loved me well! And like any proud son, I want everyone to know it!
So I’m going to spend a few minutes this afternoon talking about the nature of my dad’s love for me (and really his love for everyone in his family).
My dad’s love was his greatest legacy. I say this because the fullness of my dad’s love for me helped show me what the great love of God, our Heavenly Father looks like. My dad’s faithful love pointed me toward the gracious and sacrificial love of God and helped me to fully trust in, know, and believe in God as my Lord and Savior
There are some who have a hard time trusting God and believing the promises of His word because they did not have a father who loved them well. Maybe they hear Christians or the Bible speak about God’s love and they just have no context for it or don’t find it plausible because they never experienced much love from their own fathers.
I thank God that this was never my experience. In God’s kindness, I got to tell my dad many things in his last days in the hospital, but I am especially thankful that I was able to tell Dad that his greatest gift to me was helping me to have an accurate picture of God’s love. So to honor my dad today, I’m going to share five qualities or five characteristics of my dad’s love for me and how those five qualities imitated and displayed God the Father’s love for his children.
Five Qualities of My Dad’s Love
First, Dad’s love for me (and every member of our family) was personal. Dad’s love was never an abstract, distant, or by the numbers love. No it was always personal; what I was passionate about, he would become passionate about too. I loved the Dodgers; he loved the Dodgers. I loved practicing First Amendment law, he loved it too. He’d read up on my cases and send me questions or comments. When I declared my love for Judy, he immediately loved her too. Moreover, Dad’s love was a personal love that came down to my level. I remember when I was about 12 years old I decided for some reason to forsake my bed and, for about 6 months, I would camp out every night on a pad underneath our ping pong table. Every morning, in his business suit, Dad would get on his hands and knees and come down to my level underneath the table and wake me up with a song.
Beloved, it is the same way with God’s love. His love is not a bloodless love that dispenses theological pronouncements from on high. No, God’s love is personal. The Bible declares that it He who made us and we are his. It is he who personally formed and knit us together in our mother’s womb. He knows our innermost thoughts and desires. Eternal life, Jesus said, is personally “knowing God the Father and Jesus Christ whom he has sent.” And God came down to our level: Jesus forsook the pleasures of Heaven to come down to earth as a man so that he could personally bear our sins on the cross for us.
Second, Dad’s love was righteous. Dad had a high standard of integrity, he did not tolerate lying or half-truths, as I found out whenever I sought to play fast and loose with the truth. I remember one time he made me call and apologize to a grown-up I had lied too. Moreover, Dad had a firm grasp of right and wrong and was prepared to discipline me when I did wrong. But this discipline was always rooted in his personal love for me and never displayed itself in harshness.
God’s love works the same way: God brings conviction of wrongdoing and discipline into our lives not to make us feel bad, but to point us back to his personal love and the need for us to meet God’s standard of righteousness. Scripture declares that God is utterly holy; in him there is no sin, only righteousness. Scripture also tells us that all people have sinned and fallen short of God’s standard of righteousness and therefore face God’s punishment.
And yet. And yet that is not the complete picture of God’s love and it’s not the complete picture of my dad’s love either, which brings me to the next 2 qualities of my dad’s love. My Dad’s love for me was Sacrificial and his love for me was Gracious.
Dad loved sacrificially on a daily basis. This was his nature and it was revealed in some of his regular habits of life. He gave up sleep so he could get to work before sunrise so he could then leave early in time to coach soccer practice and come to my games. When we went to Dodger games, he knew I didn’t want to miss a single pitch so he sacrificed by standing in the long lines so I could have my Dodger Dog. He sacrificed his comfort to take red-eye flights so he could spend more time with his family. At the end of the day, he often sacrificed his last bit of energy to help with homework; often he would be so exhausted he would fall asleep at the dinner table, but he would wake up to my prodding and patiently help his non-engineer son with math homework. This sacrificial love continued to the end: even in his last days in the hospital, he drew up all his remaining energy to fix his attention on us as we shared memories with him.
Moreover, Dad’s love was not only sacrificial, but gracious. My dad loved me because … he loved me. There was never any sense in which I ever had to do something to earn Dad’s love. His love was freely given as a gracious gift. I was never a B+ or a foolish decision away from falling out of his favor. No matter the circumstance or how I changed over the years, Dad’s gracious love was a touchstone to which I could always return. And usually that love would be expressed with one of his hearty back slaps!
Beloved, my dad’s love was again an imitation pointing toward God’s great sacrificial and gracious love. Listen to how the apostle John describes this sacrificial love in 1 John 4: “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10) The apostle Paul says something similar: “But God demonstrated his love for us in this: that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) In our darkest hour when we rightly faced God’s just judgment against us, He showed his love in the most unexpected way. He gave His Son Jesus for us. Jesus, who knew no sin, willingly sacrificed and laid down his life on the cross to redeem sinners like me and you.
Moreover, there is nothing that we did, or could do, to earn this kind of love. God’s saving love is an act of his gracious love from first to last. As His word proclaims: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Though the wages of sin is death, the free and gracious gift of God to us—purchased by God himself through his sacrificial love on the cross—is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord!
Well, finally, there is one other aspect of my dad’s love to highlight. Dad’s love was a Joyful love. As I’ve read through condolence notes and talked with people who knew Dad, his joy and the joy that he brought to others is a constant theme. Dad was unfailingly cheerful and loved to share this joy with others. In fact, when I think back over Dad’s life, I am hardpressed to think of a single day when he woke up grumpy. When I was a child, every morning for years, Dad woke me up in the morning by singing to me. And there was always a joy in his eyes and voice that reflected a joy in his heart and a joy that he had in me.
Beloved, once again my dad’s love points us toward the nature of God’s joyful love for his children. The world often tries to mischaracterize God as some kind of dour school master who is out to kill our joy. Nothing is further from the truth. God seeks to reset our vision from the passing pleasures of this world to Himself because, as the Psalmist declares, in His “presence there is fullness of joy.” (Psalm 16:11) Jesus’ arrival was “good news of great joy” because he came to give life abundantly. Scripture says Jesus endured the shame and pain of the cross for “the joy set before him.” And what is this joy? Well like my dad, God is a father who sings over his children with joy. Listen to Zephaniah 3:17: “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”
A love that was personal, righteous, sacrificial, gracious, and joyful. That was the nature of my dad’s love.
Let me close by saying that I know that not all of you had the immense blessing to experience my dad’s love as his son, but I know that all of you here today had the privilege of experiencing his love in some way. And I believe that my dad’s greatest legacy is that his love is like a shining star, attracting your vision heavenward so that you can fully experience the love of God to which Dad’s life pointed so well.
If you are one who has doubted God’s goodness and love for you and have built your life on trusting in something other than God, I’d urge you today to turn away from whatever it is you’re trusting in and trust in God’s love for you in Jesus Christ. Look to and trust in His personal, righteous, sacrificial, gracious, and joyful love for you in Christ. His love never fails!
And if you are one who has put your hope in God, let the qualities of my dad’s love remind you afresh of the surpassing excellencies of God’s gracious love for you in Christ. And even today as you grieve, do not grieve as one without hope. Jesus declares that He is making all things new. By His work on the cross and resurrection from the dead He has taken the sting out of death and delivered anyone who trusts in Him from the penalty, power, and presence of sin. He will bring all who have put their faith in Him to Himself and He will wipe away every tear from every eye and there shall be no more death, no more mourning, nor crying, nor pain.
Heavenly Father, I thank you for giving me a dad who loved me so well and pointed me and so many others toward your great love. Amen.
I’m not a believer, but if the place he spent his whole life ultimately seeking (he reached for the heavens both in reality and spiritually) exists, I hope he found it. While I’ve met some men his equal (as far as I know), I’ve never met a better man, and he was a better man than me.