When You Feel Like the Runt

1 Samuel

Dearest Catherine,

Did you know that King David was the youngest of all his brothers?

In fact, when the prophet Samuel showed up on Jesse’s doorstep and announced that one of his sons would be anointed as the new king of Israel, Jesse didn’t even remember that David existed.

Jesse had son after son parade before Samuel.

Tall ones.  Handsome ones.  Brawny ones.

Every one of them seemingly fit for royal position based on their outward appearance.

The Lord rejected them.

Still, it didn’t occur to Jesse to call for that youngest boy of his.

As the parade wound down that afternoon, Samuel asked if that was the lot of them.  Any more sons?

It was like he was jogging Jesse’s memory.  Can you recall, by any chance, any other son you might have forgotten?

Of course, Jesse had indeed forgotten one.

You know, David: David the teenage shepherd boy, reeking of livestock and still far out in the fields instead of participating in this Search for Israel’s King Part 2.

Jesse brushes it all off.  Obviously God doesn’t want that son when He could have the pick of so many fine, strapping young men.  Why even bother calling David in from the field?  It’d just be a waste of the sheep’s good grazing time.

He says it like this: “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep” (1 Samuel 16:11 ESV).

Max Lucado writes that what Jesse literally says to Samuel that day is “I still have the runt” (Traveling Light, p. 107).

The runt.

Some nickname.

God picked ‘the runt,’ though.  He chose the smallest.  He chose the overlooked.  He chose the boy in the field, the hard-working, faithful shepherd with a heart for worship and prayer.

That’s what God does.  He uses the small ones, the weak and the weary, the youngest, the outcast, the dreamer.

Baby girl, it’s not the same for you, of course.  You are treasured and beloved.  We adore you so.  This year, you’ve been shining bright at school and we are so proud of you.

Still, I see it, the struggle and tension sometimes as you tag along after two big sisters, always the youngest of the King Girls Trio.

They rag on you some and pick on you at times, complaining about your tender heart and whining when you want them to play with you and they have other plans.

Those older sisters are off to bigger things and they forget that a six-year-old girl has every right to play with dolls and toys and make pretend picnics.

It seems like you grew two feet in kindergarten.  I still do a double-take at times, looking to see my Catherine hiding behind this tall, grown-up six-year-old standing in front of me.

But it’s you, of course.  You’re not a teeny girl any more, not the preschooler I have in my mind.

And it’s more than how many inches we’ve measured out on the kitchen wall.

You’ve grown in wisdom.

You rattle off your Bible lessons over Sunday lunches and you never just stop with the story itself.  You always tell me what it means.

That we should be kind to others.

That sometimes God doesn’t take away our pain, but He helps us through.

That God looks at what’s in our heart, not just how we look on the outside.

God is at work in you.  Yes, six-year-old you.  Yes, youngest sister you.  Yes, the tiniest King Girl–you.

I see it in your heart for prayer, the way you cover everything from your day as you bow your head at night.

I see it in your grateful heart, how you’re always so thankful for every gift and every opportunity. You never expect or demand; you just rejoice to receive.  You’re overflowing with gratitude and joy, celebrating the tiniest gifts like they were precious jewels laid at your feet.

I see it in your tenderness and sensitivity to those around you, treating others with gentleness and deep compassion.

You’ve announced to me this year that in addition to wanting to be a doctor, you’d like to be president some day because you’re really smart and super-good at math (as if that’s the job description of a politician).

Precious one, be who God has called you to be.

You don’t have to keep up or compete with older sisters.

You don’t have to fall for the trappings of acclaim or worldly success and push to be president because somehow that seems more important than caring for patients or any other ministry God has for you.

Remember what God told Samuel:

“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7 ESV).

God values what’s in your heart, and your heart, dear one, is so beautiful to Him.

Happy birthday.



Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2015 Heather King

3 thoughts on “When You Feel Like the Runt

  1. Adele Jordaan says:

    My oldest son – now 13 – has recently been diagnosed with ADD. He struggles to listen to us and hardly ever completes his daily chores. This leads to lots of reprimanding and tonight, after another altercation, he confessed to that he feels like a runt. Thanks for reminding me of David’s humble beginnings through this post. It gave me hope after a dreary day.

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