It’s been more than two years since the controversial preacher Rob Bell upset conservative Christians by questioning the existence of hell in his book Love Wins. Now Bell is back, with a television talk show premiering this month on Oprah’s OWN Network and a new book on marriage. Rob has co-authored The Zimzum of Love: A New Way of Understanding Marriage with his wife, Kristen. Here, we talk about the book, why they wrote it, and what it says that may surprise readers.
RNS: Rob, the title of this book, “The ZimZum of Love,” sounds very “Rob Bell-ish.” Where did it come from, and what does it mean?
RB: Marriage is about creating space in your life for another to thrive–full of life and energy and love–while they’re doing the same for you. The ancient sages had a way of talking about the divine energies that brought the universe into being, about God creating space for all of what we know to be everything to exist as it does. The word they used for this contraction of the divine to create space is “zimzum.” We came across the word more than a decade ago and thought, “That sounds like what happens when you’re married…we should write a book about that.” So we did.
RNS: Kristen, this book promotes the idea that both partners should flourish. We’ve heard a lot about Rob while you’ve been more behind the scenes. How have you two worked to make sure you too are flourishing on your own?
KB: Yes, I have always liked being behind the scenes, keeping things running. I like to say that I’m the rudder–you don’t necessarily see me, but I’m steering the ship. Rob and I have always had a sense of mission about our life and marriage. We are in this adventure together, which means we make all our decisions together about which direction to go, what to say yes and no to. For us, the zimzum happens with the daily decisions as well as the big picture. We are always having conversations about our own individual lives.
It is very important to me to give my best to my kids during this season, to pursue my own spiritual growth and to keep asking questions and then taking steps towards my calling. My calling has been intertwined with the work that Rob is doing in the world, and I have found great satisfaction and joy in that work. With the release of this book my work is changing and I’m enjoying this new season as well.