The (Not So Sad) Tale of the Runt

I am reminded of a story that my cousin Lora Beth told me when she and her (now ex-) husband Eric played midwife to our grandfather’s very pregnant hunting dog. My grandparents were out of town for several weeks and Bess (as we call her) was charged with taking care of the mamma-to-be if she delivered while my grandfather was away.

Now Paw-Paw (as we call him) has a very different view of dogs than most people. His dogs are not so much pets as they serve a specific purpose for him. But as any hunter knows, there was also a bond between Paw-Paw and his hunting dogs. But still, they were not pets and he did not treat them as such. They were well-cared for, but not pampered as most people (including myself) tend to do with their animals.

So as the birthing hour drew near, both Bess and Eric were getting excited about the new puppies until Paw-Paw called for an update. He informed Eric that any runts that were born would be put down. Yes, I know that sounds cruel. I was a little shocked myself when I heard that – I couldn’t imagine my grandfather doing anything like that. But my cousin Bess explained that many times the runt puppies in the litter ended up not surviving anyway. And our grandfather was also raised at a different time when the kindest thing you can do for a sick animal is to put it out of its misery. But still, my eyes watered a little thinking of those poor, defenseless puppies.

Apparently Eric felt the same way, and was determined that no pups were dying on his watch. The time came for the mamma dog to give birth – ten puppies in all, including a few runty ones. Our grandparents were not due home for a few more weeks, so Eric devised a plan to save the whole litter. He and Bess took turns bottle-feeding the underweight pups every few hours. I think they actually gave all the puppies extra feedings with the bottle.

By the time our grandparents returned, there were ten roly-poly pups waiting, all bordering on obese. Paw-Paw usually only kept one pup and the rest were sold once they had been weaned from their mom. Our whole family had a good laugh at those fat little puppies, and at Eric’s determination to save them all from untimely demise.

That story got me thinking about man, and God, and how much more compassion He had on us than Eric had on those puppies. And just like Eric came up with a plan to make sure that every single puppy was safe, God had a plan in place for us – before a single particle of the universe was called into existence, Jesus had already agreed to fix it if we messed up. II Peter says that God does not want anyone to perish, but for all to come to repentance.

Jesus died so that no one would have to endure life as a runt: underfed, malnourished, puny, and weak. That is what a life of sin will make you – a runt. Romans 3:23 says that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Every single one of us came into this world as a runt, but Jesus came to give us life and life more abundantly.

In Christ, we can be whole and new. We can be roly-poly puppies who are filled with the spirit of God, and are strong and mighty. We do not have to live our lives as runts. We are the pick of the litter – sons and daughters of the Most High God. We are kings and priests, and joint-heirs with Jesus. Maybe it is time to put aside the puny self-image and remember who you really are.


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