“My hope for a joyful, successful life is not in my 4.0 GPA, a lucrative career, a boyfriend or popularity. The only steady, unchanging thing is Jesus.” – Nikki Dabney
“The two biggest blessings God ever gave me are my parents and the church I grew up in,” said Nikki Dabney. “For half of their lives, my parents were very far from the Lord and heavily involved in alcohol and drugs. They both had moments where they literally fell to their knees and surrendered their lives to God. They became believers and have continued to faithfully walk with Jesus. My parents were always open with me about their testimonies. My parents told me that they looked for life in everything the world had to offer, but the only thing that ever satisfied was Jesus. Their experiences saved me from a lot of wandering and heartache.
“Watching my parents have quiet time with the Lord every morning and rest in His presence was an example that I aspired to live up to. They prioritized time with their Savior above everything. As a result, I’ve been poured into and discipled for my entire life.
“God used both the church I was raised in and my parents to bring me to faith in Christ early. While that is a blessing, it was also my biggest cross to bear, so to speak. In middle school and high school I faced a lot of betrayal because of my faith. I lost friends because the choices I was making were different from those my friends were making. That rejection really hurt. For a while I didn’t have many close friends at all, so I drew close to my family and to Jesus.
“During my senior year the Lord brought an amazing group of Christian women into my life to strengthen and encourage me. We had a Bible study and talked a lot about how to stay faithful to the Lord during college. They taught me the beauty of Christian community.
“Around that same time, I was in a relationship with a guy. Our relationship started out on the right track, but over time we made small compromises that led to big compromises in purity. Some of my friends knew, but I hid that struggle from most people. I wanted to maintain my strong, Christian girl reputation. I feared that if people knew, I wouldn’t be viewed as someone others would respect.
“It wasn’t until my freshman year at Southern Methodist University when I became a charter member of a Christian sorority that I decided to share my entire testimony. During chapter, I gave a devotional about God’s design for sex and purity and shared my past sin and present struggles. My fear was that the girls would no longer look up to me, but the opposite happened. So many of them met with me afterward and confessed sin they had never shared with anyone before. I was able to walk with them through healing in wisdom and truth. God truly made beauty out of my ashes.
“The Lord taught me so much through that experience. I was a strong Christian, and I said I would never cross those lines. But sin is deceptive, and slowly I was doing things my way and not yielding to the Lord. God taught me about being on guard against temptation and that I need people in my life to hold me accountable and challenge me. The law of God is not robbing me of pleasure. It is there so the Lord can give me good things as I walk with Him. I understand more about obedience and the power of vulnerability. Bringing my sin to the light allows Him to set me free. In the light, my sin loses its power.
“My first year at SMU, I also got involved in Watermark’s One28 ministry, where I now serve on the leadership team. It’s the biggest ministry on campus now, and many people come to find encouragement and community there. Our team has worked hard to engage people on what can be a very dark campus. While serving with One28 at school and in Haiti on spring break, this community has encouraged and challenged me to be intentional and to always be on mission.
“SMU is such a great school, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of doing anything to get perfect grades. Thankfully the Lord has broken me of that anxiety so that school is not
an idol for me. I work to revolve school around God, not the other way around, and the Lord has blessed that obedience. I’m at SMU as a disciple first and a student second.
“On my 20th birthday I got a tattoo that says, ‘one hope’. It was based on a message I heard at One28 about what the gospel is and is not. At the gates of heaven, I cannot hand God a resume of good deeds and expect to get in. Only one thing will matter – Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. My hope for a joyful, successful life is not in my 4.0 GPA, a lucrative career, a boyfriend or popularity. The only steady, unchanging thing is Jesus. Every time someone asks me about my tattoo, I get to share why my one hope is Christ. This truth is forever engrained on my body and forever engrained in my heart.”