Sometimes God gives us what we ask for not for the reason we ask for it but for another, better reason. That's the lesson of Reepicheep, the valiant if small mouse warrior that we first meet in Prince Caspian. If you recall, Reepicheep is an Old Narnian, a talking mouse, somewhat proud, deeply concerned about his honor and dignity, passionate, possessing a temerity larger than his size, loyal to the High King always, a true believer from the beginning.
Near the end of Prince Caspian, a battle is fought between the Old Narnians, headed by King Peter, and the Telmarines, with the imposter king Miraz. The battle is a success, yet in the process Reepicheep loses his tail. He asks Aslan to restore the tail. Listen in to the dialogue:
"But what do you want with a tail?" asked Aslan.
"Sir," said the Mouse, "I can eat and sleep and die for my King without one [note the melodrama of the Mouse]. But a tail is the honor and glory of a Mouse."
"I have sometimes wondered, friend," said Aslan, "whether you do not think too much about your honor."
In other words, Aslan is not unsympathetic to the request of Reepicheep to have his tail restored, but he is gently critical of the motive. And yet Reepicheep is defensive, reminding Aslan, as if he needed reminding, of his small stature, and continuing a bit of bluster about how he would take on anyone who mentioned things like "traps" in his presence. But then there is this moving scene:
"Why have your followers all drawn their swords, may I ask?" said Aslan.
"May it please your High Majesty," said the second Mouse, whose name was Peepiceek, "we are all waiting to cut off our own tails if our Chief must go without his. We will not bear the shame of wearing an honor which is denied to the High Mouse."
"Ah!" roared Aslan. "You have conquered me. You have great hearts. Not for the sake of your dignity, Reepicheep, but for the love that is between you and your people, and still more for the kindness your people showed me long ago when you ate away the cords that bound me on the Stone Table (and it was then, though you have long forgotten it, that you began to be Talking Mice), you shall have your tail again."
And so, for love, Reepicheep's petition is granted by the Great Lion. Isn't that the case with so many of our requests to God? We ask for something, our motives impure or mixed, and yet we receive it for another reason all together, for love, for the sake of others, or for some other hidden reason that only Providence knows. What it reminds me is that I need to ask, even if I don't know if my reason is a good one or my motives pure. I still need to ask, to boldly ask. Not only did Reepicheep have his request granted, in the asking he also learned that dignity and honor were not as important as love. When we ask, we too can be gently instructed by God that our motives are impure, and yet Love gives us what we need anyway.
What I note in Lewis's writing about the talking animals of Narnia, including Reepicheep, is that whenever he uses their common name, like Mouse, he always capitalizes it. I think it's his way of showing honor, of recognizing the dignity of the talking animals of Narnia, creatures who, in that world at least, are made in the image of their Creator. In addition, did you note the name of the second Mouse, Peepiceek? It's a sign of love and honor that his given name even sounds like his Chief's, Reepicheep.
The authors of A Reader's Guide to Prince Caspian note C.S. Lewis's fascination with mice, his great love for animals. They report that, in writing to a young child about Reepicheep, Lewis declared: "I love real mice. There are lots in my rooms in College but I have never set a trap. When I sit up late working they poke their heads out from behind the curtains as if they were saying, 'Hi! Time for you to go to bed. We want to come out and play.'"
I'm looking forward to meeting Reepicheep in the upcoming movie. His courage, passion, loyalty, and love remind me that there are no little people. . . or mice, provided they are God's People. . . or Aslan's Mice.