Adrian Serna and family at construction site

Priorities, Prayer & Purpose
Story 55

Adrian Serna, president of Adventist Health Physician Services, opens up about the reasoning and challenges of his life’s philosophy.

By Kirsten Cutler
Adrian Serna and family at lake

Sometimes you don’t recognize something until you say it out loud. Recently, Adrian Serna did just that.

“I was challenged to ask myself, ‘How does my life’s philosophy actually work on a daily basis?’” he shares. “’It sounds really good, but it’s actually really hard. Even though I say, ‘It’s simple: God, family, then work,’ the problem is my time is spent in the opposite direction.”

When Adrian looks back at his life, he sees God’s leading in the biggest decisions of his life. He remembers the moment he woke up feeling purposeless and decided to return to church. He remembers taking his first accounting job on the advice of his mother and how it changed the trajectory of his life. And he remembers the decision to move his family from southern California to Roseville eight years ago.

It was something, Adrian says, he prayed about for months, since it would not be easy to leave behind a beloved network of family and friends. He also remembers asking himself this question, as he had many times before: “How do I not follow God when he's done such amazing things in my life?”

Adrian Serna and family at construction site

For Adrian, the answer to that question means keeping his priorities in this order: God, family, work. This is not always easy, he says, but always essential.

“I try to wake up every day saying, ‘God, use me in any way you see fit,’” Adrian says. “’Whatever it is that you need done, do it through me.’ And I trust and count on that, and it hasn't failed me yet.”    

With God first, family comes second for Adrian – and whether it’s “Friday night tacos,” quality time together on Sabbath, or one of his boy’s games, he won’t let anything stand in the way of his commitments to priority number two.

“I'm not going to miss these things that are important, that I only get one shot at.”

“My oldest is 16, a junior, so I have this next year and then he's off to college,” Adrian explains. “I'm not going to miss these things that are important, that I only get one shot at.”

This is often a challenge, as many people know, Adrian says.  “Work is always going to be there,” he explains. “It’s never going to go away. I could spend 24 hours a day doing work, and I'm still going to feel like I'm not getting everything done.”

But, Adrian says, “You can do a lot more with God than without him.” And you can do a lot more with family than without them, he adds. “None of this works if the family, particularly my wife Sandra, is not in line with the same three priorities.”

Adrian Serna and family

His family’s agreement on this philosophy is never clearer than when they participate in mission projects. A few years ago, they decided to sacrifice a vacation for a mission trip, starting with Christmas in the Dominican Republic. “We walked away loving it,” Adrian recalls. “And we said, ‘Every other year we're going to cancel out one of our vacations and do this instead.’”

"We serve a God that is full of grace, and I count on that each and every day.”

Volunteering their time, energy and skills together for these kinds of projects has become a tradition his family loves and looks forward to resuming once travel is safer. “I’d love to get to the point where I'm the grandpa going with my grandkids on mission trips,” Adrian says. “I'm so game for that.”

Until then, Adrian says he will navigate life and career with these guiding words: “Give God permission every morning to use you, because sometimes, that’s all he’s looking for.”

And as for keeping his priorities in order? “Six out of seven days, I’m probably messing it up,” he says, “but we serve a God that is full of grace, and I count on that each and every day.”