The good luck algorithm.
I recently had the opportunity to hear an MIT professor speak at a conference. The topic of her discourse was casinos and it was terribly fascinating. Honestly, some of the things she told us were pretty startling. There was one idea in particular that I have been unable to shake and that is, the "good luck algorithm."
You see, casinos gather reams and reams of information about the people that play in them. They study the ergonomics of the slot machines, the impact of different lighting systems, the number of times a certain type of person will play a certain type of game, etc. But the scariest thing they measure is something called your "pain point."
That's a phrase they use to describe your threshold for abuse. A pain point represents how much money you can lose before you'll get up and leave. A pain point represents how taken advantage of you will be before you exit the casino. A pain point represents your breaking point.
Why do they measure it? So they know when to start the "good luck algorithm."
Here is how it works: When you hit your pain point, casinos see that happening and will set in motion a process to win you back. Suddenly, as you walk down the long carpeted hall to the exit, someone taps you on the shoulder "randomly." They say, "excuse me, we just wanted to thank you for being such a loyal supporter of the casino. Would you like a free steak dinner and a coupon for five turns on a slot machine?" You smile a little. The pain starts to melt away. "Hey," you think, "maybe this place isn't so bad after all." You walk back in and start to play again.
The reason I mention this story is that I think the devil works the same way. Not that casinos are demonic, but that the devil has his own algorithm, the "bad luck algorithm." When things are going well in your life, when things are moving along smoothly, suddenly someone taps you on the shoulder, "Hey, Mark, is that you? It's me Pamela, we dated in college? Wow, it's been so long, you still look great. Haven't lost those college muscles." Or maybe it's just the opposite, in the midst of a really challenging time, you see the chance for some momentary escape. A sign for a strip club suddenly feels larger and more inviting than it used to. The chance to buy those shoes and never tell your husband about the money suddenly materializes. Some temptation dances it's way magically across your field of vision. In an obvious way. In a subtle way, it doesn't matter.
Wherever you are, remember, the tap on your shoulder is never accidental. It's never coincidence. It's never "just one of those things."
It's the bad luck algorithm. And if you're not careful to tell God you need help with the math of your life, the odds are going to be stacked against you.