Women often have high expectations for their marriages - dreams of soul-stirring romance that blocks out life's burdens of exhaustion, tension, and pain. Wouldn't it be great if household chores didn't pile up? Wouldn't it be great if family members never irritated each other? Wouldn't it be great if wives always felt like princesses, lavishly loved and brimming over with joy to share with others? These are noble hopes, to be sure, but often unrealistic in our fallen world.

Rather than striving to fit their image of a perfect wife, women should acknowledge their imperfections and look to the only one who is perfect - God - for the grace they need in their marriages, says Terri Camp, author of the new book If It Weren't for Eve, I'd Be a Perfect Wife. Camp, the mother of eight children, candidly shares many of her struggles with sin in the book in the hope that her story will encourage other wives to discover more about God's grace.

"The world at large generally thinks of Christians as hypocritical," Camp says. "Perhaps that is because we try to appear to have it all together. In my early walk I found it difficult to find anyone who was sinful. No one seemed to have husbands that irritated them, children who disobeyed or houses in a constant disarray. I felt completely isolated in the Christian community. I struggled so much with thinking I had to be perfect in order to be a Christian, that I almost gave up, turning back to the world. If I'm willing to share what I did, and sometimes continue to do wrong, then perhaps others who are seeking Christ will see His perfect redemptive power in my life. And they will hopefully get a great grasp of the concept of grace."

Judging a Book by its Cover ...

Women, especially, are prone to looking at "externals" in people's lives - such as how many children someone has, or what talents she has, or her personal appearance, Camp writes. Then, she writes, they judge themselves and other women by those external factors too often. But God doesn't care about externals; what matters to Him is the condition of people's hearts. And He offers a way out of those destructive comparison games so wives can achieve personal contentment and treat others with respect and love.

"I think the first step is for women to see how destructive it is, not only to themselves, but to their ministry," says Camp. "I believe that every woman who is a child of Christ has a personal ministry. If we get so caught up in trying to be like others, or trying to look a certain way, our focus has been taken off of our savior and onto ourselves. ... I still struggle with this whole area of not being able to be everyone. I find myself looking around at my group of peers and think, oh, if I could only sew like Susan, or if I could just be diligent like Jill, and the list goes on. When those thoughts creep in, I have found that I must dump all that garbage at the feet of Jesus.  ... He always reminds me what He has called me to do."

Just as wives need to accept themselves as they are, they need to also accept their husbands without trying to change them, writes Camp. That's challenging for women who wish for a knight in shining armor, but in reality face a knight with armor that's full of chinks and tarnish. But God calls spouses to offer each other unconditional love and forgiveness as a way of life.

Looking back at the courtship she and her husband Steve shared helps Camp renew her love for him, she says. "In Revelation there is an admonishment for the church that has lost her first love of Jesus. If the church can lose their first love for a perfect savior, then obviously I could lose the first love of my husband who is imperfect. There was a point when I had to realize that I had an incredible responsibility to keep my mind and heart pure, even after marriage

"Women are often motivated by their thoughts. Whenever my thoughts stray away from my husband, I have had to learn to hold every thought captive, to not let it take hold of me. When my husband does something that really irritates me, I have to not dwell on it. I could easily hold onto something he said to me for days, weeks, or even months. Again, it's still a process, and I am far from perfect at it. I've also learned that I cannot expect perfection from my husband. That was a huge hurdle to get over in my own life."

Control Freaks